Due to an unexpected rise in the need for student living space beginning this past interim, the Office of Residence Life has housed some St. Olaf students in repurposed offices and lounges in Ytterboe Hall and Larson Hall. Students are also being housed in Sovik House and O’Neill House, which are usually reserved for visiting scholars.
According to Associate Dean of Students for Residence Life Pamela McDowell, students have never lived in these spaces before, except for Sovik House.
18 extra beds have been added for student usage since the beginning of this school year, McDowell said. McDowell did not comment on the exact rise in student population during interim that caused these unorthodox living situations. She also said that many of these spaces were created in order to keep students who wanted to live with one another together, rather than split them up and make them live with strangers.
Aaron Lauby `19 and John Smith `19 currently live in what used to be part of a nursing office in Ytterboe Hall. Both studied abroad during the first semester of this school year. When Smith returned to campus just before interim, he was surprised to find his new room featured the outline of a doorway that had been filled in on one of the walls.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be a great situation”, Smith said. “I figured, ‘hey, we went abroad first semester, we sort of waived the right to a good room,’ but I figured we’d at least be in a room.”
Lauby and Smith’s disappointment with the room was exacerbated by the fact that they weren’t told they would be living in a repurposed office before they moved in.
“It’s just one of those things where you’re like ‘Ah, this is what I’m paying for. I’m paying for a faculty office converted into a room.'” – John Smith ’19
According to McDowell, the nursing offices in Ytterboe Hall were always intended to be used as a living space if needed.
Lauby and Smith’s new room features other unusual components, including a portable clothing rack instead of a closet, a door with a window in it, thumbtack strips on the walls, a radiator without a dial and a curious black device on the wall that emits white noise throughout the day that caused Lauby and Smith to move their beds away from that corner of the room.
According to McDowell, she has received no complaints from any of the students living in newly created living spaces. For Smith and Lauby, complaining doesn’t seem like a productive option at this time.
“Seems like it wouldn’t make much sense at this point, we’re second semester seniors,” Smith said. “Also, the way they framed everything online makes it seem like their hands are tied.”
McDowell said that there are no current plans to further address student living situations.
“Everyone’s housed,” McDowell said. “I don’t plan to grow off-campus housing.”
Lauby and Smith will live in some discomfort and disappointment during their last semester.
“I mean, it works, it’s not that we’re unable to sleep here,” Smith said. “It’s just one of those things where you’re like ‘ah, this is what I’m paying for. I’m paying for a faculty office converted into a room.’”