College and firm briefed students on potential future housing

In the past two weeks, Colby has played host to an architectural firm investigating the current residential arrangement in order to suggest possible improvements. In an email to the student body, the Office of Campus Life urged students to make their voices heard at a meeting with these architects.

“Do you have thoughts on your residence hall experience? How can we renovate current buildings?” the email asked. “What would we include in a NEW [sic] building? How can we create a true community?”

Campus Life’s message also clarified the particular mission of the architectural firm.

“An architecture firm has been selected to guide us through a process to better understand Colby’s residential experience and develop a more intentional residential life program that is in full support of and is closely aligned with our academic program,” the email read.

Colby has a complicated history in terms of recent housing policy.

Amelia Ashton `22 perceived the room draw process last year as disorganized and complicated.

“It was unnecessarily confusing for students in general. I think people were just confused about being on the waitlist and where you stood in relation to where you were going to be living.”

The Office of Campus Life was in a state of flux at the end of last year after Kimberly Kenniston, who was handling room draw, left Colby unexpectedly. This departure contributed significantly to the fairly hectic nature of the room draw process.

Yusuke Fukuda `22 spoke about his thoughts last spring.

“I felt awful for students who had a bad pick number. I believe it was handled very poorly because of the sheer number of people who were on the waitlist,” he said. 

Fukuda also addressed Campus Life’s apparent change in policy regarding off-campus housing.

“When I first got to Colby, I was told that there was guaranteed on-campus housing for everybody and that off-campus housing was discouraged and would not be offered after my first year,” Fukuda said. “But obviously, the fact that off-campus housing has continued into this year . . . there’s not enough housing for people on campus.”

Regarding the perception that the size of Colby’s student population has recently climbed beyond the carrying capacity of the College’s facilities, Vice President for Enrollment and Communications and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Matt Proto said that growth has been fairly incremental.

“We’ve essentially been at an average class size of 520 to 580 and we’ve, from an Admissions perspective, been pretty accurate in projecting yield numbers,” Proto said.

He also addressed the concern that Admissions was unable to accurately predict how many accepted students would actually come to Colby.

“Based on the number of spaces available on campus for housing purposes with the best info we have, we’ll model out how many acceptances we need to provide to the applicant pool and determine based on previous years’ yield data how many students will enroll in the class,” Proto said.

Proto also remarked that enrollment and available space for students on campus was dependent on a range of factors.

“Every year the college is looking at the number of students who are going to enroll in the first year class . . . enrollment carries a whole host of variables,” Proto said. “The number of students projected to study away [sic] for a semester or whole year, the number of students who may not be returning to campus . . . right now [Admissions] is planning for an incoming class of approximately 550 students.”

When asked about possible plans to augment the residential experience in the future, Proto emphasized that specifics were not necessarily being discussed at the moment.

“The plans are really focused on creating the very best integrated residential experience for everyone on campus, [and are] not necessarily tied to admission number at the moment,” Proto said. 

That being said, Proto also noted the impact any change in the residential experience could have on students.

“There’s a uniqueness to this experience, and one where everyone’s living in close proximity to each other and understanding that people truly care about each other and support each other in good and bad times,” Proto said. “Any adjustment can feel different in so many ways… Changes on campus, positive, negative or otherwise, always have impacts.”