Claremont McKenna College will renovate its residence halls following two years of discussion to increase its student capacity and provide gender-neutral housing for the first time during the 2014-2015 academic year.
“We have been very tight in our housing capacity these last few years,” said Eric Vos, Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residential Life at CMC. “Adding beds in a renovation as opposed to in a brand-new, ground-up residence hall is more cost-effective.”
The CMC Board of Trustees voted Oct. 4 to expand Marks Hall and to expand and connect Berger and Benson Halls, projects that will begin this summer and continue into the 2014-2015 school year. The college will also follow through with an expansion of Beckett Hall this school year as well as a renovation of the interior of Benson and Marks this summer. In total, about 100 beds will be added.
Vos said that the college has an agreement with the city of Claremont to cap enrollment at about 1,400 students; there are 1,316 undergraduate students currently enrolled. Residence hall renovations are part of the college’s 25-year master plan, which was developed several years ago.
Renovations of Beckett, Phillips, and Berger Halls took place this summer after the Board of Trustees approved them last spring. Air conditioning was installed, and bathrooms were modified to create the capacity for gender-neutral housing by offering more privacy.
Vos said that the college has yet to determine which residence halls will have a gender-neutral housing option for next school year.
“This year, we’re going to be exploring how and where to implement gender-neutral housing at room draw in the spring,” Vos said. “There’s student interest for it, and in my opinion it’s the right thing to do. It adds a level of variety to our students for an area they can live in, and it accommodates students who might need that type of space.”
CMC is the only co-ed college at the 5Cs that does not offer gender-neutral housing.
“I am especially excited for the gender-neutral housing and think it is a much-needed investment,” wrote Faith Hanna CM ’14, a Resident Adviser in Benson, in an e-mail to TSL. “This will be a huge step forward for CMC in terms of accommodating students for [sic] all types of backgrounds and especially those belonging to the LGBTQIA [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, question, intersex, asexual] community.”
“I think it’s important for all campuses to have all-gender housing or gender-neutral housing, especially in a small liberal arts environment where the goal is to create community,” said Adriana di Bartolo, Director of the Queer Resource Center. “If gender-neutral housing (verses LGBTQ or All-Gender Housing) is the answer for the Claremont Colleges, then I absolutely support it. I always want to support what works based on the institutional culture and histories of the colleges.”
The school also plans to construct study lounges, social spaces, and other places for students to gather.
“One of the trustees asked me to organize a student focus group for students who not only live in that area of campus but are also a good cross section of our student body,” Vos said. “We wanted to know, ‘In your dream world, what would you want in a newly renovated residence hall?’ The number one thing they needed was gathering space.”
“I think the new installments will be a great way of providing a more organic and lively living space for incoming students,” Hanna wrote. “In addition, we really need the space: to compensate for all the freshmen that came in this year, CMC needed to create dozens of triples.”
Another plan in the works is the proposed renovation of the basement of Marks, about which students will continue to provide input until the plans are finalized. Ideas for the basement include a permanent practice room for music groups or individuals and a basement social lounge for small- to medium-scale social events.
“For the basement of Marks, we’re still working on the plans, but it seems like there’s a lot of momentum and interest by both students, the staff, and the Board,” Vos said.
“We want to enhance social life and the student experience,” Vos said. “We’re a residential college, so it’s important having facilities that are attractive and modern and meet the needs of our current population. And then thinking ahead 10-20 years about what are going to be the needs at that time, we try to implement design choices that anticipate those needs.”