When Barnard first-year Rathna Ramanathan, BC ’18, learned that she had been assigned to live in a four-person room, she didn’t know what to expect.
“I was first scared that it was going to be different because I was only ready, as a first-year, to get to know one person,” Ramanathan said. “It was overwhelming at first.”
So far, though, she’s seen nothing to confirm her fears—Ramanathan said that “the four of us are able to maintain our own identities while we’re living together. We’re able to keep out of each other’s way, which helps us to get along.”
“We have great views,” she added about her sixth-floor room.
Ramanathan and her roommates are among a number of first-years who are living in newly converted four-person rooms in the Barnard quad. Study lounges on the third through eighth floors in Sulzberger and Reid halls have been renovated into dorm rooms as 619 first-years matriculated at Barnard this year—39 more than last year.
“This year's first year class is unusually large, and many of these students would not have been able to come to campus without housing,” Barnard Associate Dean for Campus and Residential Life Annie Aversa said in an email. “For this reason, lounges in Sulzberger are being used as student bedroom spaces this fall.”
This year, Barnard admitted 23 percent of 5,676 applicants. Last year, Barnard admitted 21.3 percent of 5,606 applicants and 580 students matriculated for the class of 2017.
Most first-years still live in double or triple rooms in the quad, and students who live in four-person rooms have said that the arrangement has been working relatively well. Still, packing four people into one room has its own challenges.
“I think there's good parts and bad parts,” Sulzberger/Reid third-floor resident Lily Arzt, BC ’18, said. “The good part is that the space is really, really great. It's a really nice room, and it's nice that we have a section for sleeping, and also a section for studying.
“The downside is, there's just lots of bodies in the room,” she added. “Some people find it harder to sleep with lots of bodies in the room. ... There are just more people, more ideas, more opinions, more ways of living, so that we've had to find compromise a little bit more.”
“We all kind of respect each other. We’re kind of tight,” sixth-floor resident Victoria Martinez, BC ’18, said. “There’s actually no hassles, really. … One roommate has an alarm that goes off every five minutes that she doesn’t turn off, but I think those are basic struggles that anyone can encounter.”
“It's definitely a lot harder to find your own time to be alone when there's three other people living there, so that is kind of hard sometimes, but so far my roommates and I are doing a good job of respecting each other's space,” Arzt said.
This isn’t the first time four-person rooms have existed in the Barnard Quad—in 2011, the study lounges were also turned into quad rooms to accomodate larger-than-expected classes of 2015 and 2016.
Last year, the rooms were converted back into lounges but spent part of the fall semester underfurnished before being converted back into residential rooms for this year.
Although the lounges lacked proper furniture, students said the rooms were useful and comfortable spaces.
“I met new people in those lounges last year,” Clémence Bellanger, BC ’17, said. “It's a good space to be in the dorm when you want to get out of your room.”
“Those lounges provided a sense of community during midterms and finals. It was somewhere you could go to find other people who were studying too,” Emily Litt, BC ’17, said.
Aversa said she considers the four-person rooms a “temporary measure,” and that if space becomes available, residents can choose to move to more spacious quarters. She added, however, that students have generally been happy with the rooms.
“Previous years when spots have opened up, students living [in] converted lounges did not want to move elsewhere,” Aversa said. “They liked the space itself and were attached to their roommates.”
Sarah Linden contributed reporting.