Freshmen Haley Cheney, Ryan Houston, De’Laone Dobbins and Samantha Leal walked into Stella Russell Hall’s first floor hallway.
The four are close friends; they hang out in each other’s rooms, eat dinner together, and share jokes. And it all started right here.
“(We met) in the hallway,” said Cheney, a criminal justice major. “Yeah, we met in the hallway in Stella.”
“There isn’t really any specific way on how we met,” said Leal, a Spanish major with secondary certification. “We were all just met and we all are friends now.”
“We met by the hallway,” said Dobbins, an accounting major. “The first floor hallway. We were all attracted by something.”
When they first met, they weren’t as close as they are now.
“When my uncle passed away,” Cheney said, “this group of people were the ones that checked up on me. We weren’t even that close at the time, but we’ve grown stronger and closer.”
When the university created an all-freshman dorm last fall, the hope was to strengthen relationships between freshmen, according to Sarah Ouimet, the assistant dean of students for Residence Life. But like all creations, this new system still has some kinks to work out.
“I think it’s a change that will happen slowly,” Ouimet wrote in an email. “The first- year experience is a unique time in a student’s higher education journey. By putting them together in one residence hall, we’re providing them with a community of support as they’re surrounded by other students experiencing similar issues.
“As this is our first year providing an all-first year hall, we are able try new things and then to see what works and what needs to be improved for our population of residents for future years.”
According to senior forensic accounting major Anthony Harper II, the root of many of the issues with the all-freshmen dorm was freshmen misunderstanding dorm policies.
“A lot of the challenges evolve around freshmen not understanding and following policies,” Harper wrote in an email. “The Resident Assistants are the ones with a bigger weight on their shoulder to hold residents accountable.”
One of the ways of holding freshmen accountable is writing incident reports, which is Harper’s least favorite part of the job, especially when it’s for repetitive policy violations.
According to Leal, there have been a lot of noise complaints and write-ups in the dorm.
“I have a room in front of me and a room next to me who won’t shut up,” Leal said. “During finals week when it was supposed to be quiet hours 24/7 they would say up to like three or four in the morning just partying and listening to music while some of us were trying to sleep.”
Another issue last semester was roommate pairings in the new triple dorms.
“When they first told me it’s going to be $1,750, I was like, `That sounds great,’” said Cheney, who had issues with her roommates. “But then you move in and you don’t have any space and you have to share a closet with somebody.”
Harper believes the triple dorms could be improved with more research into roommates before the pairings.
“I think it (triple dorms) was not a good idea,” he wrote. “The only grounds that could have made them better was if triples were given to those who didn’t mind, and/or had hopes of staying in a room with someone they got to know before Wesleyan.”
Housing decided to have three people per room in Stella because with increased housing demands the community style bathrooms worked best to accommodate more people sharing rooms versus the other dorms, Ouimet wrote.
“To accommodate an increased demand for on-campus housing, we transformed a number of Stella Hall rooms into triples,” she wrote. “To create more space in those rooms, two of the beds were bunked and the third bed was lofted. This is a common practice on many campuses that also have greater demand for housing than available spaces.
“We determined who was placed in a triple based one two things: 1. If a student volunteered for a triple, as residents in triple rooms were offered a discounted room rate and 2. When the student applied for housing. The later the application, the greater the chance the student was placed in a triple.”
Cheney may not have received a good match-up, but Dobbins did.
“I’m not going to lie. Having two roommates wasn’t too bad for me,” Dobbins said, “but I like my roommates.”
With noise complaints, broken items, and roommate agreement issues put together, RAs have had to write more incident reports than before.
“As an RA I have had to address more situations than in recent years because of freshmen newness to policies,” Harper wrote, “but (I) have had the chance to develop newer relationships with residents.”
Harper wrote that his favorite part about being an RA in an all-freshmen dorm was seeing how they grew into being Rams.
“My favorite part is seeing students I’ve known since orientation and Ram Camp develop as students of Wesleyan,” Harper wrote. “I like seeing the comfort on residents’ faces from already knowing someone they met on day one, and watching their character develop as a Ram.”
While Harper and many of the old residents would have preferred to see Stella remain mixed, they have begun to see the positives in having an all-freshman dorm.
“Compared to the old housing, I do think that freshmen are making better relationships with others; and if not, they have a better opportunity,” Harper wrote. “Before the change, a freshman in West Village could disappear from existence and no one would notice. Now, I walk past freshmen who don’t try to have much social interaction but end up speaking in passing because they are around more people before even leaving the hall.”
Leal appreciates living with other freshmen because it gives her people to relate to and led her to meeting her friends.
“I met these really good friends,” Leal said. “Something I like about it is the fact that you’re surrounded by a bunch of people that are going through the same things as you. Like if they’re freshmen class-wise and stuff you can relate to them a lot.”
Dobbins also sees the benefits of grouping all the freshmen together.
“I see how it would cause less problems having a bunch of freshmen all in one area instead of mixed up,” Dobbins said. “I feel like it makes it easier to adjust when you’re around more people that are like you because you see that this person is having the same hard time that you’re having.”
Leal, Cheney, Houston, and Dobbins agree they don’t get enough expose to upperclassmen, especially in the dorms.
“Well, it (living with freshmen) has its pros and cons,” Cheney said, “but it would be nice to get to know more people instead of just spending day and day out with the same people 24/7.”
Houston and Dobbins say they only usually see the few upperclassmen that still live in Stella. Houston, an English major and football player, can understand why freshmen could be better off separate.
“A lot of freshmen aren’t prepared to be integrated with people who have already been on their own for a while,” he said.
Dobbins can understand the benefit of separating freshmen, but he can also see the benefit of living with more upperclassmen.
“I feel like having upperclassmen in there would make it easier to live in there,” Dobbins said, “because upperclassmen wouldn’t want to deal the majority of things (issues) done in there.”
Leal can also see the benefits of living with more upperclassmen.
“They’ve (upperclassmen) have already done the classes that we’ve taken so they can help us,” Leal said. “They can help us in the library, but it’s easier when somebody’s two feet away and I can knock on their door.”
According to Ouimet, freshmen still should have the opportunity to interact with upperclassmen anywhere else on campus and are allowed to visit with upperclassmen in dorms as well. Harper agrees with that, but he also agrees that freshmen don’t interact much with upperclassmen in the dorms.
“Freshmen are not getting exposure to upperclassmen in the halls, of course;” Harper wrote, “but Wesleyan is a small campus that interaction with other classifications is easily obtained through classes, organizations, sports, and more.”
Harper believes one way to improve on the all-freshmen dorm next semester is for the RAs to maintain all their expectations from the beginning.
“I think persistent and consistent programming and expectations at the beginning and throughout the semester will help RAs set the tone at the beginning and maintain throughout the year,” Harper wrote, “so that the community doesn’t suffer from rule breakers who may just not know any better.”
The all-freshmen dorm may have its rough patches, but Cheney, Houston, Leal and Dobbins still see it as home.
“Honestly, it’s nice having the privacy of a room that you can go to and just chill out with your people,” Dobbins said. “All we do is just play games, joke around, talk, and make fun of each other. There’s always something to do in Stella.
“It’s not too bad living in Stella because it’s like home, but it still has its ups and downs.”