As I ran by the construction site on Campus Ave this week, I was struck by a thought: as the building nears completion for the fall of 2016, this could be the last class of first-years to inhabit the cramped quarters of Smith Hall.
The history of Smith began in 1930 when Dr. George Carroll Smith donated $200,000 for the construction of a new men’s dormitory. Divided into three towers, each section holds roughly 60 students. Originally built as a male dorm, Smith is now a co-ed, first-year dorm. However, as part of the ongoing Campus Life Project, Smith will eventually be converted to upperclassmen housing, as the Campus Ave buildings will house incoming first-years.
I had the pleasure of living in Smith South my first year at Bates. When I found out I was going to live with three other students in a quad, I was a little worried. I grew up in a house with three brothers and one bathroom. While most people think that would be difficult, I couldn’t imagine navigating a bathroom situation with eleven other women.
But of course, learning to share space with complete strangers is part of the first-year experience. As is negotiating with roommates, adjusting to a new workload, joining new clubs and wading through seemingly endless sessions of small talk. There are some things, however, that should not be part of your first-year.
Think: over 100 first-years crammed into one, confined space, away from home for the first time. It’s recipe for rowdiness.
Now, I’m not saying that I did not partake or even encourage some of the shenanigans. Looking back, however, I realize for many students, this sort of behavior, in conjunction with the destruction to the building on weekends, could not have made their transition into college any easier.
People feel one of two ways about Smith Hall: you loved it or you hated it.
Despite some challenges and adjustments, I loved it. I loved meeting one of my best friends while brushing our teeth the night before the first day of classes. I loved the location—literally a straight shot to Commons. And of course, I have nothing but love for Smith South first floor and the amazing people I got to know my first year.
But then I know there are those who hated it—who hated how noisy it was on the weekends or how trashed the bathrooms and common space could get. Who felt like they had no personal space and nowhere to find peace and quiet. Their dislike is completely justified.
New residential buildings will not solve all of the problems that the layout of Smith contributed to. Nor are some of these problems exclusive to Smith.
Freshmen year is tough, whether academically or socially. Though there is something to be said for living in a place where you feel safe, comfortable and respected—this can make the jump from high school to college a bit easier.
To everything there is a season. Just like MySpace, Uggs and Puff Daddy (P Diddy? Sean Combs?), all things must come to an end. As Smith makes the transition from freshmen quads to upperclassmen housing, I bid adieu to the place I called home my first year at Bates. For those of you just starting your first year in those hallowed halls, I hope you have a happy, safe first-year at Bates and remember to always be considerate of the 150 other people in your building. Smith Hall, your days as a first-year dorm have run their course, but it is nice to know that the Class of 2020 will start off their Bates journey in a shiny new dorm, one that hopefully makes the transition into college a bit smoother.