Stanford University plans to begin construction of a new dorm in the Manzanita complex, scheduled to open in 2013, according to the Study of Undergraduate Education at Stanford (SUES) report. The report also suggests that the Manzanita dorm may have a theme, although discussions are ongoing and no final decision has been made.
“The construction of the new dorm in Manzanita represents a confluence of the need for more undergraduate living space and the desire to create residential spaces conducive to reflective and creative work,” said Jonathan Berger, music professor and SUES committee member. Berger was the chair of the SUES subcommittee on residential learning.
According to other committee members, residence overcrowding is a serious issue at Stanford. The SUES report addresses this problem in its section on the residential life and the state of the current residential facilities. Starting in the 1990s, “stuffing” became a common practice: Singles were renovated into doubles, and many doubles would be adjusted into triples. Open spaces, such as common rooms, were converted into dorm rooms as well.
The SUES report attributes this problem to the decision to guarantee undergraduates four years of housing, which was not always true of University policy. The University has begun trying to “unstuff” many residences. For example, the construction of the Munger graduate housing complex enabled Crothers and Crothers Memorial to be shifted to undergraduate use.However, the problem remains acute.
According to the report, “the significant issue is less the supply of beds than the loss of shared space.” In order to improve residential education, SUES has proposed the need to create these communal areas in dorms that enable conversation and activity.
“Dorms provide both rooms with bed space for students but also common areas for studying, seminars, workgroups, socializing, thinking about life, practicing music, working on creative projects and so on,” said Nadeem Hussain, associate professor of philosophy. Hussain has been appointed chair of the task force on residential education. This committee was established by Harry Elam, vice provost for undergraduate education, and Deborah Golder, associate vice provost and dean of Residential Education, and has been charged with developing a residential education plan for the new Manzanita Dorm.
“The new dorm will have state-of-the-art spaces of its own for such purposes,” Hussain said, “but by providing more bed space it will also allow us eventually to free up common space in other dorms across campus.”
The SUES report suggests that the design of any new undergraduate housing focus on creating residential learning spaces, an initiative which will begin with the Manzanita residence.
Other dorms are also in need of adjustment. The SUES report recommends that “existing dorms should be retrofitted to reclaim and expand such spaces, including multipurpose common areas, specialized facilities (e.g., rehearsal rooms, dance and digital arts studios), and classrooms with appropriate technology. Where that is not possible, the university should create ‘neighborhood facilities.’ Dining areas should likewise be designed and administered with the goals of residential education in view.”
Depending on how seriously the University takes the SUES proposals, dorms around campus may begin to undergo renovations to enact these changes.