By Reggie Bourn ’21
Ask anyone about what they picture as a stereotypical college dorm room, and you’ll hear a number of similar responses. Cramped rooms, bathrooms down the hall, and one or two roommates. Feeney Hall, aka the Suites, differs from this picture by offering apartment-style housing for up to eight students. It’s located across from Alfond Hall in an area known as the “Fishbowl”—made up of five available residence halls that form a horseshoe shape. As one of the upperclassmen residence halls, it’s a popular destination on campus and one of two group housing options. Its layout reminded me more of a hotel than the residence halls I’m used to. I sat down with the residents of RA Suite M to try and get a clearer understanding of what it’s like to live there.
Meet the guys of Suite M: Spencer Wilkinson ’19 (who serves as the RA or Resident Assistant), William Blagys ’21, Kristopher Mason ’21, Matthew Toth ’20, and Anthony Blatus ’21. Jokes, side comments, and chuckles ensued as I explained the specifics of the interview. Despite the difference in our class years, they made me feel welcome. The main common space is furnished with everything from standard chairs to a gray inflatable seat to a brown couch. The latter was contributed by Kristopher; he explained that it was compact enough to fit in the elevator when moving it to their third floor. Assorted flags, strings of multicolored Christmas lights, and a small calendar added a personal touch to the plain walls.
However, with the number of benefits comes some drawbacks. All of the Suite M residents cite the location of the residence hall and the limited availability of parking. From its spot on the end of the “Fishbowl,” Feeney Hall feels like a long walk from everything, except the turf field, which it overlooks. Suite M explained that they try to limit the number of trips to the other side of campus because of the time spent walking.
The apartment-style living of the Suites makes it a popular housing choice. Dean of Campus Life, Matt Goodwin, explained part of the process regarding the selection of residence halls:
“Housing selection favors those students who are in good standing with our community— both academically and behaviorally. We do this by identifying a housing “score” for each student who is interested in on-campus housing. The housing score is an algorithm tabulated in conjunction with the Registrar’s Office that takes into account a student’s academic standing (which class you’re in i.e., freshmen, sophomore, etc.), GPA, and status in regards to their personal conduct.”
The Director of Residence Life, John Porter, further broke down the specifics of housing selection. “Students who are interested in living in the Suites must fill out and submit an eight-person suite application. The eight students on the application will take their housing scores and find the average. (The Residence Life Office) then takes all of the applications, reviews them for accuracy, and comes up with the selection order. The group with the highest score selects first.
The Suites are the most popular housing option that SJC offers students. If there are no more suite options available, the students may be able to select an 8 person pod, depending on availability. Our office will pre-determine how many suites/pods are available per gender; this is based on the number of returning students. Typically, the Suites will be filled with mostly senior and junior students based around their housing scores.”
One of the first things that came up in our conversation was the benefit of the smaller number of people sharing a bathroom, as opposed to the larger first-year residence halls with thirty or more students per floor. They also love the ample floor plan, including a shared common space in the center of the rooms.
“There’s always someone in here,” said Spencer. The others agreed that the suites encourage a style of communal living. Will said, “You trust each other more.” He added that the guys in the suite form a “closer friendship.”
These five knew each other well beforehand–a common factor among residents of Feeney Hall–and something they consider essential when choosing to room with more than one person. “You have to make sure you can live with them,” said Spencer. Anthony stressed the importance of having “a group with a variety of interests,” pointing out the different activities the five of them preferred. He and Matthew joked throughout the interview. When the group got off topic, Spencer brought things back to the current question.
Will talked about how living with a group means that “you have to keep an open mind for other people’s styles. Kris might like the furniture arranged one way, and I prefer another,” he said, gesturing to the number of chairs that fill the common room. “We take turns so everyone gets a chance to set it up the way they like it.” The current layout has plenty of space to work, and Will took a moment to show me his work-in-progress drawing of Barack Obama.
The overall sense I got from my visit was that of a strong friendship among the members of Suite M. The suites aren’t for everyone, but for a group of tight-knit friends looking to find housing together, it’s the perfect fit.