Lounging around in temporary housing

The doors along the two long hallways of Trelease Hall’s top floor are nothing out of the ordinary for a residence hall, each adorned with a peephole and a couple of names. Just beyond the elevators at the end of each hallway is a door framing glass layered over with black paper to prevent outsiders from seeing in. 

The four names tagged onto the black paper resemble the normal dorm doors down the hallway, but this is actually a lounge that students have been living in temporarily. Freshmen Nick Gamsby, Randy Lam, Ryan Steckler and Oscar Montes are the last lounge dwellers in the building. 

Every year the University guarantees all students housing. But because they cannot be certain how many students will re-sign for another year or predict how large the freshman class will be, the target of 7,000 incoming freshmen set by University Housing is often surpassed, said Kirsten Ruby, associate director of Housing for marketing. This year, their estimation was surpassed by 481.  As they wait for standard dorm rooms to become available, converted lounges become home for many students at the start of the school year. On Sept. 4,  184 students were in temporary housing, according to University Housing’s fall contracts report.

But this temporary housing, despite what the makeshift door might imply, is well-equipped for those who missed out on the standard rooms. 

“I don’t mind it at all,” said Lam, who is in LAS. “Having four roommates is not that bad. You get to know them. It’s fine. You respect their space. I don’t know — I kind of prefer temporary housing, but that’s just me.”

Inside the room is a pair of bunk beds divided by a stack of portable closets. Just inside of one door is a cut-in countertop with cabinets. Lam said he stores a lot in that space. 

“I don’t know if other lounges have that space over there,” he said.  “But I find that it definitely feels like there’s a lot more space it the temp housing rooms than other rooms. Sometimes when other people come in, they walk in and are like, ‘Whoa, you guys have so much more space in here.’”

After the May 15 priority housing deadline, housing assignments are made in the order that applications are received. Lam applied for housing about two weeks after the deadline. He hoped that he would get a standard assignment, but he figured he might be in temporary housing. The emails he had received over the summer from University Housing gradually matched his intuition.

Lam moved in at the start of the school year with two other randomly assigned roommates: Montes and Steckler. Gamsby arrived later. 

Originally, it had been Gamsby’s plan to commute to and from school because his family lives only 45 minutes away. But early on, the plan lost its traction, and he applied for housing one week into the semester. 

“I have all 8 a.m. (classes), so I was pretty excited to be on campus so I could to get to class,” Gamsby said.

Across the middle of the carpeted floor lays a router and blue Ethernet cables that flow to the bunk beds like rivers branching away from a lake. The setup in the room is not quite perfect.

“We’ve got it figured out, but in the beginning it was a bit of a hassle getting everything to work,” Lam said. 

Because floor meetings typically take place in lounges, meetings for the 12th floor take place elsewhere in the building.

Though he lives in a converted lounge without couches and other amenities a standard lounge would have, he has never been in another floor’s lounge. Still, he feels his floor might be missing out. 

“Sometimes I feel sorta bad for taking up the lounge space because all the other floors have lounges and from what I hear, lounge is a chill place where everyone hangs out,” he said. “Taking away that, it kind of feels bad a little bit.”

University Housing moves students living in lounges without windows into their permanent rooms as soon as they can. Because the lounge on the 12th floor has windows, it will be one of the last to make the transition back to a normal lounge like the other floors. 

But Lam and Gamsby are fine with that. The four roommates have “meshed” despite minimal privacy, and they say that they don’t think lounge living is any worse off than their permanently housed peers. 

“I’ve never lived in a normal room but I think (living in a lounge is) about the same as living in the other ones except you just have more roommates,” Lam said.

They think about their current home similarly to how others in temporary housing have over the years, Ruby said. 

“You’d think they might be clamoring and calling us every day, ‘when can I move?’” she said.  “It’s more of the opposite: ‘Gee, I really like it here, can I stay?’”

The move for Lam, Gamsby, Steckler and Montes will likely take place sometime early next semester.  But the four randomly-assigned roommates, who found a way to get along, might be separated by being assigned different dorms.

“I already know my roommates, and getting another roommate next semester is going to take some adjusting,” Lam said. “Hopefully they’ll move us out in twos.”

Though all four of them have made a point to give each other enough space, it was never too much for the lounge on the top floor of Trelease. 

“You always have somebody to talk to,” Gamsby said. “Somebody that’s there to hang out with.”

Next semester, the thought of giving roommates space may slip away, but there won’t always be somebody around anymore.

Stanton can be reached at [email protected]