Monday, August 20, 2018

Is this a dorm room or a hotel suite?

INGRID THOFT

Have you seen that video that's gone viral?  The one that shows a tricked out dorm room at the University of Mississippi?  Or maybe you've seen the ads from Home Goods and Marshalls that show shopping sprees that transform average dorm rooms into spaces worthy of a magazine spread?

There's no comparison between the dorms of my day and newly built offerings, like the Hub at Tucson at the University of Arizona, Tucson, which features a roof-top pool, grilling gazebo, hammocks, en-suite baths, walk-in closets, and in-room laundry.  The desire for luxury seems to be extending to the decorating done by students themselves; fancy headboards, wall stencils, and drapes are just some of the additions that never occurred to me back in the day.

How about a rooftop pool to go with your room?
My first dorm room was a triple on the 12th floor of Rubin Hall at NYU.  The location was amazing:  the corner of Fifth Avenue and 10th Street.  The interior had less to recommend it, although the rooms did have en-suite baths because the building started its life as a hotel.  I remember distinctly the green and purple duvet cover that I had purchased from IKEA and a few matching toss pillows, which seemed quite "House and Garden" at the time.  There was no coordination between me and my roommates; the room looked like three separate people had moved in together. 


Personalized wall stencils are all the rage
My sophomore year room was at Wellesley in the eaves of a building overlooking a lake.  The view was nice, if we craned our necks, and my duvet cover came with me, as well as my poster of Michael Jordan featuring a William Blake quote:  "No bird soars too high, if he soars with his own wings."  Junior and senior years I had a single room and "decorated" them both with posters and personal items, but at the end of the day, those rooms looked like what they were:  dorm rooms temporarily occupied by a student.


How about a mood board for your room?

I have mixed feelings about the trend of transforming dorm rooms into luxury hotel suites.  Aside from the expense poured into these projects—which immediately broadcasts a student's financial standing—I worry that college students will have a rude awakening when they enter the real world and discover that replicating their college living quarters will be financially ruinous.  And wasn't it nice when the only difference between your room and your neighbor's was the choice of posters or duvet covers? 


My favorite college dorm story is that of my sister and her sophomore room at the University of Pennsylvania.  When she got her room lottery number at the end of freshman year, she studied the layouts of the various dorms and zeroed in on the room that she wanted.  She even visited the room once she'd claimed it, bringing her tape measure so she could figure out the best furniture arrangement.  Home for the summer, she fantasized about her roomy room and looked forward to returning to school.

The kind of room I remember!
When she threw open the dorm room door in September, she discovered that over the summer Penn had done renovations—and cut her dorm room in half.  She still could arrange her furniture as she liked, but only if the room were tipped on its side, since it did have quite a high ceiling!  The best laid plans, foiled by Campus Housing!

What do you think?  Should dorm rooms be luxurious?  Should kids deck out their rooms like the Ritz?

64 comments:

  1. And here I thought folks went to college to study . . . .

    Dorm rooms should be livable, comfortable, and maybe cozy, but unless you have Decorating 101 on your class schedule, it does seem as if turning your room into the Ritz is not the best use of your college time or your [presumably] limited funds . . . .

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  2. My dorm room was smaller than anything you've shown in those pictures. And I survived just fine. Heck, I still haven't lived anywhere with a pool on my roof. I think I'd like that. Maybe I need to go back to college.

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  3. My second dorm room had a building pillar in it, essentially making a room and a quarter.... that was the only "feature" in it. End of the hall, right next to the resident advisor. The only luxury was the small fridge I rented for the year. Home sweet home....

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  4. If you can afford it, I don't see the harm in these luxury dorm rooms. My school didn't require that you live on campus, so I guess in my mind this is just another option, like a luxury apartment.

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  5. No! Do none of those kids live on a budget? What happened to bringing (used) stuff from home? I think the whole thing is ridiculous. There, my inner curmudgeon got her say in her first blog comment of the day!

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    1. My girl took quite a bit from home, including her down comforter, the afghan my grandmother crocheted for me when I went to college, and some pictures. We did spring for new sheets, towels, and a mini-orchid for decor.

      Lots of the kids I saw moving in yesterday had a blend of old and new stuff. But not luxury.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. Edith, my inner curmudgeon replies "well said!"

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    3. Thanks, Lyda! And Mary, I do remember the requirement for extra-long sheets, and for a wire wastebasket and a shower caddy - none of which we had, of course. But like you, we kept it sensible.

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  6. I'm with Joan!

    I did not live away for college, but all three of my daughters did. Each of them had a different experience.

    The oldest, when she graduated high school in 1989, had to make do with mostly stuff from home, including threadbare towels, etc. Later, she moved to a small apartment on her own, where a burglar got all her good stuff.

    The middle daughter had the best deal. She went to a brand-new school at the time, Olin in Needham, MA, so she got the color coordinated dorm stuff, all new.

    The youngest didn't need anything but a little coffee pot and her computer components because she went to The Citadel and lived in barracks. Everyone had identical everything, including clothing (which everyone changed at the same time), and her baby blue spread had to look exactly like every other on campus, or else.

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    1. Quite different experiences, Karen. What were their responses to their different types of lodging?

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    2. You know, it suited each of them. The Citadel grad responded very well to a regimented lifestyle, but her sisters would have rebelled.

      However, that experience could be why she is so into decorating now. She's an innovative DIY'er, and is always doing something interesting to her home.

      The middle daughter could care less about her surroundings. We keep hoping that she will marry somebody who does! For now, the outdoors is far more important to her.

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  7. Me too on inner curmudgeon Edith LOL! I was one of the earliest women to attend Princeton so the freshman dorms were in an old gothic building with two bunk bed rooms sharing a small living area with an old fireplace. Amenity! The bunks were narrow, but especially long to accommodate the previous generations of tall Princeton men. I think we were on the 3rd floor, with bathrooms in the basement. Would that be considered an amenity too?

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  8. It was a great marketing device by some company who knew a winner when they smelled the money! I think it's ridiculous. If you've got the cash, sure, why not a new spread and pillows, for sure. But a rooftop pool? There's this whole trend of education run as a business--and this is further proof-- are we trying to attract the best and brightest? No, we are just trying to bring in the students (and their loans). My inner curmudgeon is alive and well!

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    1. Bed Bath & Beyond, and places like Target and the Container Store, have made a business out of creating desire for matchy-matchy dorm decor.

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  9. Being Brit by Birth and American by adoption I had none of the dorm room need to show my inner Martha Stewart. My daughter’s biggest design was bringing back a futon her soph year. She and her two besties were in a ‘suite’, two tiny rooms on the top floor of a Victorian, probably the maids rooms, as her collage bought the houses around Campus for dorms. I admit, we were much younger but I have no memory of how we got that futon up the stairs. However she was the hero as there was always a spare bed and privacy as the three of them crammed their beds into one room, leaving the other for study and stuff.

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  10. I will be the dissenter here. My two cousins (from Mississippi, as it happens) both attended a small college there, at different times. Both girls had scholarships because they were excellent students. Their door rooms looked like the one with stenciled letters because the girls sewed curtains, had fun lamps and pillows and comforters that they hunted around and paid for themselves, then when they moved in, they had a decorating party with their mom and the other sister. It helped to ease the pain of separation. These are not wealthy people (they're my relatives, after all) and this was a small Christian college. They were girls who overcame some of their fears about being on their own for the first time by taking control of their new home and making it something personal. That was several years ago. They both graduated with good grades. So there! Not all is as it appears.

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    1. I'm 100% behind this. I think it's fun. It's the "luxury rooms with rooftop pool" I think is overkill - but that's not the students.

      Mary/Liz

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    2. It sounds like they really made their rooms a home, Ramona, which is great!

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    3. Yes, exactly, Ramona. They did it on a budget, they did it themselves, and they made it homey. Perfect.

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  11. I'm with you: those decorations are unbelievable and expensive. I never lived in a dorm but had many friends who did -- and all their rooms looked like the before picture!

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  12. Oh, how timely since I just moved my daughter into her dorm yesterday.

    She was able to get a single as a freshman (unheard of when I went to college). The room is nice - big, tall ceilings. Two smallish windows on the eighth floor of an older building (at least by Pitt standards). But I wouldn't call it luxurious. It's nice for a single and she has a lot more space than we thought just looking at the floor plan.

    But compared to the triple(!) I lived in as a freshman in a 100+-year-old building when I was a freshman (Crest green walls, shag carpet & a triple metal bunk anyone?) or the single I had when I was a senior (in the building that used to be a Franciscan seminary, so the word "cell" is a very accurate description), it's quite luxurious.

    I read an article a couple years ago about a dorm renovation in Boston (I think) and the pictures looked like hotel suites. Not a fan. It's college, for crying out loud. You can't afford that when you graduate, so don't get used to it.

    A fair number of my friends have kids going off to college this year and they've shared pictures. Lots of personality, but I haven't seen any "luxury" dorms yet.

    Mary/Liz

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    1. I think the dorm renovation you're referring to was at BU, Mary/Liz. I know that BU has a large population of international students, especially from the Middle East, and I think they were trying to appeal to that audience!

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    2. They were hotel suites! The son of a friend went to BU, and lived in a converted hotel.

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  13. My kids were issued a laptop and cellphone, sheets and towels, and this key component: thirty pairs of underwear so they could last a month without doing laundry (icky, but realistic). They flew to college and I shipped some boxes of clothes. That's it.

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    1. That's hilarious, Margaret! Anything to avoid those oven-like clothes dryers!

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  14. We decorated my freshman year dorm room with glow-in-the-dark constellations on the ceiling, we were so wild and crazy!
    Later in college I had a private room, on the third floor of the dorm, with slanted ceilings and very garrety. I loved it, it was such a sanctuary.
    I guess it’s crazy to spend a lot of money on dorm rooms, and I hate when things like that escalate into one upping each other. But my bottom line is the dorm room should be whatever the tenant wants it to be. (Not the moms,)
    If the student wants to paint the walls purple stripes, I say go for it.

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    1. I agree, Hank. I'd love to see the dorm rooms of art school students; I imagine there is some very creative décor.

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  15. My first dorm room was a very small single with a connecting door to another, thus a roommate of sorts. I had new towels, new sheets I think, but then all sheets were white so who knows. I bought a brown corduroy bedspread and three toss pillows, one turquoise, one tan, and one orange. Was I a budding Martha Stewart or what? My one window looked out on the practice hall, which meant I heard someone playing something about 20 hours a day. The toilets and showers were a community affair, down the hall. I thought it was a grand adventure.

    Oh, there was a swimming pool for the various classes, and it was available in the evenings if we could find someone to be the lifeguard. Suits were optional. I have a memory of seeing surface dives with all these nekkid butts in the air!

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    1. Suits were optional? Talk about getting to know your neighbors!

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    2. It was a girls school. Now it’s coed

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  16. My first dorm room was a double, a corner room at Barnard College overlooking Claremont Ave. My roommate, with whom I developed a mutual loathing, and I walked down to Woolworths on 110th street and bought matching bedspreads. We shared a bath with an adjoining single, and we had NYC at our doorstep. What more could we have wanted?

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    1. I remember shopping in the Village for my first room, Hallie. I also had a mutual dislike with one of the roommates. The joys of dorm living!

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  17. My first dorm room was a double at Stephen F. Austin University, in the round dorm. This meant the room was pie-shaped. Can you imagine what a bad idea that was? I wonder if that building is still there... My roommate (who was very nice, thank goodness) and I had different bedspreads, and I think we put up some posters. That was it.

    I never lived in a dorm after that. I went to a different and much smaller college, where I had a garage apartment behind a Victorian house in the "historic" part of town. My parents and my aunt and uncle and I had a great time fixing up and decorating that two room apartment. It's still one of my favorite places I've ever lived. (The garage apartment is still there, but the house, sadly, is gone.)

    My objection to the luxury dorm is that the students are going to be saddled with that debt for years to come. Someone has to pay for the fancy buildings.

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    1. A pie-shaped room does sound like a terrible idea, but the garage apartment sounds perfect, Debs!

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    2. Deborah, is that fondly remembered garage appartment the real life model for Gemma’s?

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  18. My own dorm rooms were ancient, freezing cold until my senior year when I snagged a good one with a view. But both grandkids in college are going to be in triples! Actually 3 crammed into a double through bunk beds and loft bed. No luxury there and the same price!

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  19. First let's be clear: this was 1967. My dorm room at University of Arizona was on the third floor. It was a double, narrow bunk beds (I arrived second so had the top) on one wall, We had sheets and a top blanket, no other bedding. There were built-in double desks with dresser between on the opposite wall, a window on the between wall and the door on the fourth wall. That was it. No other furniture beside the two hard wooden chairs. No electrics allowed (no radio, coffee, etc. and it was before computers, of course. The floor was linoleum. They were very strict about having no furniture, rugs, etc. Posters on the walls were not allowed. It was extremely plain, utilitarian and 11x11 in size. The word grim comes to mind.

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    1. That sounds a lot like my experience, Rick, which was just slightly earlier. We were allowed radios though so I guess that made all the difference!

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    2. Rick, are you sure you weren't in prison? ;)

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    3. Ingrid: Ha! I didn't know any better, I guess. But I spent most of my time studying there or the library, or sleeping, or in the student union. I forgot to mention it was a men only dorm, and the bathroom was at the end of the hall.

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  20. Youngest and I are assembling/shopping for her dorm room right now - move-in day is on the 31st. Like Mary/Liz's daughter, Youngest is bringing an assortment of old and new. Eggcrate mattress topper, bed risers, lamps, comforter and pillows: old (but partly because they're hand-me-downs from her older brother and sister's dorm rooms.

    Underbed storage, folding laundry hamper, 2 pairs of XL twin sheets, hangars: new. The big difference that makes these coordinated rooms possible? Social media. Youngest Snapchatted with her assigned roommate as soon as she knew who it was; they graduated to Skyping soon after and they spent the weekend together, window shopping at Target and Bed, Bath & Beyond. They selected a color scheme (gray and pink with black and white.)

    Being able to "design" the room in advance means the girls can spread the cost around - for instance, the roommate has purchased a gray rug, and Youngest is buying a pink folding chair.

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    1. That's very smart. It's nice that they are able to agree on things. It would be challenging if their tastes were opposite.

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    2. It would be! They were also smart about it - they both had the basics in black and white, so will only have a buy a few accessories to make a "look."

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    3. Pink and gray? I remember when that was the go to color scheme of high school the 80's!

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  21. My freshman year I was assigned to a college-run apartment in a building about half a mile off campus. There were seven of us living in a three bedroom apartment. We didn't do much to decorate it, if I remember correctly. Other girls in the building did spend money on making their apartments home-like. There were stricter rules for us than there were for students who lived on campus. There were on-campus activities I wanted to participate in but it would have been difficult to get back to the apartment before curfew.(Does anyone remember these?? ) For my sophomore year I moved on campus. Three people in a room intended originally for only two. There were only two desks and two dressers. I don't recall much decorating there, either. I wasn't happy with the program I was in, and changed my major and transferred to another college after sophomore year. The college I transferred to didn't have dormitories, and was more expensive so I had to commute from home.

    Even the "plain" room pictured here is larger and fancier than my dorm room!

    DebRo

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    1. Curfews, yes, we had them our freshman year even living in the dorms. We had to traipse downstairs and sign in by 10 PM or have our name on the after hours sheets. There were a lot of roommates who had very similar signatures for some odd reason. I only recall one room check. That was when a student was reported missing by her parents. Turned out she had eloped. Her roomie had been signing her in every night even though she was in Georgia after that we had to show our ids and match the picture with the person.

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    2. Wow! She really wasn't worried about that curfew!

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  22. My dorm room was in Pearson Hall at the University of Miami - it was long enough ago that it was an all female dorm and we were lucky, the female side had air conditioning, unlike Mahoney Hall which was the male side. Plain cinderblock walls painted a greenish white, twin beds one at either end of the room with built-in desks beside them, a divider consisting of two three drawer bureaus separated the sleeping space from the closets - two identical divots in the walls. Ah, but the luck of living in the "newest" of the dorms - a jack and jill bathroom joined our suite with the one next door. No stumbling down the hall for a shower! My roommate - met her the day after I moved in, and I became lifelong friends. Our agreed upon decorations consisted of a few posters and some candles. We shared a stereo, a large selection of vinyl records, and a typewriter as needed. That was it.

    We lacked electronics in those days, so the room itself had little draw. In fact, I don't think we were in it much except to sleep and sometimes to study if we were pulling an all nighter. Most of studying took place in the library. 1970s stereos did not have headphones and when you have a dorm of 30 rooms on a floor each with its own playlist, things get loud.

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    1. Late night trips to the communal bathroom were always jarring, with those bright fluorescent lights!

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  23. I was in a dorm for a semester and a half, with an apartment after that, all shared. Oh, and I was in a dorm one summer, too. Semester and a half dorm rooms were small and in a concrete complex, including the one tower I was in. There was a communal bathroom, for the floor, large, but still communal. I remember getting up early enough to be the first in the showers every morning, and then I'd go over to the cafeteria in another building and have breakfast. I actually enjoyed the food in the cafeteria. The summer dorm room was in the oldest girls' dorm on the University of Kentucky campus, and there was no air conditioning. That dorm is long gone now. My daughter's and son's dorm rooms were similar to mine, small and no major decorating going on.

    So, when my daughter and granddaughter came back from a college visit last spring, I was shocked hearing the description of the dorm rooms. It's a large suite with two bedrooms, each double occupancy with a roomy commons area, and a bathroom for each bedroom. My daughter was quite impressed, and the granddaughter most happy. And, I will feel better knowing that granddaughter has a nice place to call home while she's away from her real home.

    I'm not sure I'm a fan of competitive decorating, which is what the elaborate decorating sounds like it could easily become. Maybe I'm just an old-fashioned fuddy duddy, but I think, like you, Ingrid, that it could set up students to have some unrealistic expectations for the rest of their lives. Of course, decorating with bookcases filled with books would be not be a bit over-the-top. Hahaha!

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  24. I will also point out the pictures of beautifully decorated dorm rooms you can find online ALL belong to girls. I can tell you from experience that the boys' rooms are as disgusting as they ever were.

    I bought the Sailor two sets of XL twin sheets for his freshman room. When we arrived in May to move him ut for the summer, I found one of the sets in his closet - still wrapped in the original, unopened package. "What did you put on your bed when you washed the other sheets?" I asked.

    "I was supposed to wash the sheets?" he said.

    You can imagine my face, but if you're lucky, you can't imagine the smell. I didn't even try to launder them, cheap as I am. I just threw them out.

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  25. 6th floor Chase Hall at Southern CT State Univ - our slogan was "We like it on top!" I did two years in the dorms and then moved into a brownstone with a bunch of friends on the Blvd in New Haven. Our dorm rooms were a few steps up above prison cells and many steps down from Martha Stewart's Living. And you know what? I liked it that way! We were a bit of a party floor (understatement), so really anything terribly froo froo would have been destroyed. I like to think it has prepared me for life in the frat house in which I now reside :)

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  26. A lot of you are too young to have experienced this (!) but did anyone else (female) who went to college in the sixties have to take turns with other residents acting as a receptionist to make sure everyone signed out and in again in the evening, and most especially to make sure that no males attempted to walk past the desk? We had to page the person the young man was visiting, and announce the name of the male visitor. I do remember one who refused to give his name!

    And if a plumber or electrician showed up to repair something, the call ran out "man on the floor!"

    DebRo

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    1. At our dorms paid resident advisors (students) did the honors. And yes, definitely. MAN ON THE FLOOR!

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    2. Pat, We had this when I was at Wellesley in the 90's. They've since gotten rid of the system, but we each had to do an hour of "bells" every week. When someone showed up at the door, we would announce it over the loud speaker, and we had code words. A "visitor" was a female, and a "caller" was a male, so you could figure out who had shown up. Male visitors were allowed to move freely on the floor they were visiting, but not allowed to go to another floor without their hostess!

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    3. Also a 1960s college student. Bells were covered by students, nonpaid, only during daylight hours on weekdays. Evenings and weekends were covered by middle aged women who had “mother’s vigilance”. After curfew, 10 weekdays, 11 or 12 weekends, the Pinkertons locked us in and no one was assigned to answer the phone. Ah, such a sheltered experience.

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  27. Oh gosh. A lifetime ago! We paid a little extra to get me a room in an air conditioned dorm: Kinsolving in Austin, Texas for you UT fans. Can you imagine Austin without air conditioning? The cheaper dorms had no A/C. Nor did the co-ops. We had a sink in our room. Two built-in twin beds with storage underneath. A dresser each. A very small closet. Puke green walls and coordinated linoleum on the floors. You could hang posters only if you used this special sticky stuff that would peel off. No nails or tacks.Showers and toilets down the hall. For my sophomore year I moved "up" to a private dorm that was a lot nicer in size and layout. Still two to a room. The following year I shared an apartment, then a fire trap, then another apartment. That was not a good year. After that I changed schools and majors and wound up commuting from home in Metairie, LA. Ugh.

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    1. Puke green walls and matching linoleum! Lovely!

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  28. Since I didn't go to college, I have no hands on experience with the insipid high-dollar decorating schemes people are doing to their temporary lodgings. But it must be nice to be able to waste even more of your parent's money on a room that your parents couldn't afford anymore because they are sending you to college.

    If the "students" want to go hog wild on rooms that look like show pieces rather than places you can live in, let them pay for it all. Call it an early economics lesson for life after a four year free ride. Maybe it will inspire them to do more learning in school rather than learning to be perpetually offended.

    Putting up posters and stuff like that is one thing, but the fancy-schmancy stuff in the photos Ingrid included makes me sick. But that's probably because I'd rather spend my money on other things.

    Or maybe I'm just getting a good head start on being a grumpy old man.

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  29. I never graduated, however the two of the best years of my life was spent at Swarthmore College. I first arrived there in 1971. I shared a three room suite with 3 other students. In my bedroom was one other freshman and in another bedroom were two upper classmen. I would describe our lodging as Male Spartan. The house was a large old stone structure which I suspect had been the manse of the Presbyterian Church which bordered the south end of the campus. I don't remember where the bathrooms were or where we did our laundry. I do remember there was a common phone where someone could call you, if there were someone around to answer it and they were willing to run up to your room and let you know you had a call. We had a kitten in our suite (named Puff after the tissue brand). My roommate had a stereo system and I remember bringing two albums (Roberta Flack). I remember hearing Miles Davis and John Coltrane for the first time. I remember there was a house dog with only three legs which somebody fed and tended. The center of campus was perhaps a walk of a mile or more; so you generally packed for the day and didn't return til well after night fall. The dorms were coed, but the rooms (at least for freshman) were segregated by race. I never asked and the subject never came up in conversation but I suspect that focus groups found that blacks preferred to bunk with other blacks. Everything else (classes, the library, etc.) was integrated save for the dining room where blacks tended to sit with other blacks, and the Black Cultural Center ( a sort of non-fraternity fraternity). There was a relatively large black student population as a result of affirmative action. While race was taken into account in admissions, money was not. (The current President of the school is a black woman.) Many of the applicants to the school are certainly affluent and upper middle class. However, the admissions committee, makes its selection without knowing who can pay and who can't. I think that together with very high College Board scores, some substantial recommendations, my father's being black helped rather than hurt my chances of admission.

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  30. I returned to Swarthmore in 1984. As an out of place older student, I was given a room by myself in one of the other the co-ed dorms. It was spare and I didn't do much decorating. I had my own inexpensive stereo system by that time. I remember playing Bob Marley's Uprising over and over. I do remember the bathrooms if not the laundry room. Being closer to the center of campus, almost right next to the library, I could take a nap before dinner. This was still before mobile phones. And the computer lab was new and everyone, teacher and student, had a computer account which included an email address. The computer system was mostly used for word processing. And you could do favors for friends or earn a little pocket change typing papers. The email account was mostly used as an intra-college message system. I now have a vanity email address of @alumni.swarthmore.edu.
    What I most remember about Swarthmore College was the Scott Arboretum. They overlap one another. The word on the street was that they had two multi-million dollar endowments solely for landscaping. I used to joke that even all of the weeds were tagged with their Latin appellations. There was a marvellous rose garden which I have been back to see several times. There is an amphitheater of wood and gravel under a canopy of large trees which shade it year round. A broad walkway from the train station to the administration building is surrounded on both sides with a lawn where students sit and hang out. One of the schools signatures is the Adirondack chairs that students love. There is even one that is five times the size of a regular one which everyone likes to pose in for a picture (like Lily Tomlin).
    The school was founded by the Society of Friends. Quakers in former days prided themselves in being simple. In spite of that, and Spartan dormer not withstanding, the school gives off the scent of the best education that money can buy.

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  31. My dorm room was much smaller than the pictures here, but it had really good built in storage. My roommate & were able to get a lot in those wardrobe/desk combos. They weren't pretty, but they held a lot. It helped make our rooms look bigger since we were able to put all the clutter away. We did decorate, but it was very simple (framed photos & posters). Certainly not fancy enough to be featured in any decorating magazines.

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