Three or more make a happy crowd at Pitt's dorms
Living together this term in a study lounge at the University of Pittsburgh's Litchfield Towers are, from left, freshmen Pete Rowan of Reading, and Matt Cassidy and Tom Boudwin, both of West Chester.
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You shell out nearly $2,000 for a college dorm room, only to be placed with three roommates in a converted lounge steps away from the elevators and the hallway noise that comes with them.
C) So pleased with the way things turned out that you hope a regular room doesn't open up.
If you're University of Pittsburgh freshman Matt Cassidy, the answer is C.
It may not be the reaction of everyone who's ever had to live in overflow housing on a college campus, but Mr. Cassidy, 18, said he and his roommates feel the extra space and social perks they get from living amid the bustle of Litchfield Towers actually make their digs superior.
"I want them to make it permanent," he said.
It looks like he'll get his wish. Pitt officials this year are departing from the usual practice of integrating those students into regular rooms as the semester progresses. Instead, they're making such assignments permanent for the academic year.
Part of the reason involves simple math.
"We had a larger number of students in temporary housing this year," explained Pitt spokeswoman Patricia Lomando White. "We knew there would not be enough attrition to get them into a regular room early on in the semester."
She said Pitt housing staff queried students, who answered that if regular rooms didn't open up within the first few weeks, it would be less disruptive to them to simply stay put.
Pitt says that in Litchfield Towers and Lothrop Hall, 92 students are living in four-person and three-person rooms made from converted lounges. Another 48 students occupy a floor inside the Wyndham hotel on Forbes Avenue near campus, and nine more are in a residence hall at neighboring Carlow University.
Students who end up in makeshift quarters may be surprised by their living arrangements. How they got there, though, is hardly a mystery.
Every year, colleges must play a tricky game of math, trying to predict what share of students they accept will choose to enroll, and how many others will go elsewhere. Over-estimating the turnout means empty dorm rooms and lost revenue, while under-estimating means too few beds.
Rising applicant totals and resurgent interest in on-campus living has added to the pressure on many schools the last decade -- Pitt among them -- to find enough beds. The university has been adding residence capacity, including a 155-bed addition to its Bouquet Gardens apartment complex that Ms. White said is expected to open next year.
The students in the Wyndham hotel and in Carlow's Dougherty residence hall turned in their housing contracts after the deadline, according to Pitt. In years past, they would have been placed on a waiting list with no guarantee of housing.
But Ms. White said Pitt this year decided to put them together so they can take part in normal residence programming, albeit in a not-so-normal setting. In the Wyndham, students live two-per-room on a floor that is staffed by two resident assistants, has 24-hour security and gives them access to amenities including an in-house fitness area, Ms. White said.
Mr. Cassidy, a finance major from West Chester, wasn't too impressed on move-in day when he opened the door and peered into his walled-off lounge on the sixth-floor of Litchfield Tower A.
"It was basically four beds in a big open space," he said. "I wasn't sure about it."
It was a bit awkward, too, in a room that still carried a sign labeling it a lounge. "People just sort of walked in the first week, not realizing it was someone's room. We'd say 'This is actually our room,' " Mr. Cassidy said.
But he and his roommates soon re-arranged the beds and furnishings into a pair of two-person "rooms" at either end of the lounge, with a common area in the middle. They hung floor-to-ceiling tapestries for sleeping privacy -- one tie-dyed and the other bearing an image of Bob Marley.
Their 32-foot by 16-foot environs, almost three times a normal two-person room, is big enough for two televisions, including one with a 30-inch screen that came with the lounge.
Two windows looking into the hallway are covered for privacy. The roommates can lock their door, or leave it open, knowing they won't have to wait long for people to wander by as they head to and from the elevators.
"It allows us to make more friends on the floor, just because it's so easy for people to come in," said roommate Tom Boudwin, 19, a freshman engineering major, also from West Chester.
"The biggest advantage is the space. It's hard to hang out (in groups) comfortably in other rooms," he said. "We can comfortably fit eight people in the middle room. We all watch football games there and stuff."
And the biggest downside? Mr. Cassidy said it's trying to study amid the humanity. "There's too much going on. There's always somebody in there. You definitely have to go to the library," he said.
Litchfield Tower A traditionally houses students in double rooms, charging each $2,750 per semester. But those in the lounges pay less -- either a triple occupancy rate of $2,095 or $1,850 for four-person rooms, Ms. White said.
After the student newspaper, The Pitt News, last week reported the university's decision to make the assignments permanent, some online readers posted criticisms on the matter, including one who called it "an embarrassment."
But Mr. Cassidy's roommates on Friday seemed of a different mind as they stretched out in a room with multiple windows.
"I'm pretty happy," Mr. Cassidy said.
First Published November 8, 2010 12:00 am