Forced housing is here to stay.
According to Associate Director of Housing Operations Lisa Rendall, all of this fall's forced housing will remain as such in the spring. Though previously there was a possibility that some of the 25 forced triples in Brunswick Apartments would have been able to revert to their intended double form, a combination of fewer students going abroad than anticipated, others taking time off from Bowdoin, and still more living off campus has caused the tight living conditions.
According to Dean of Student Affairs Tim Foster, enrollment will decrease from 1,772 this fall to an estimated 1,735. However, forced housing will still be necessary.
According to Director of Residential Life Mary Pat McMahon, just because all of the forced triples will remain forced, they will not necessarily all be filled with three students. Rendall said that in some cases if there is only one space open in a forced triple, no student will be assigned to live there at the beginning of the semester.
"Some rooms are left forced without assignments in order to maintain flexibility," McMahon said. Students could move into those rooms at any point during the semester for various reasons.
Rendall said that because of how complicated housing assignments are, she did not have a good sense of the number of forced triples that would be left without assignment.
McMahon said that while placing students who are returning from abroad or a leave of absence is always tricky, the increased number of students living on campus next semester has made things particularly difficult.
McMahon's main objective was to not put strangers into a forced triple.
"To my knowledge, we were pretty successful at not putting random strangers into forced triples," McMahon said.
According to McMahon, Rendall communicates with students who are returning from abroad, asking them for preferences of people they would like to live with. McMahon said Rendall typically asks for several options. After that, Rendall works with students who are on-campus to confirm the plans.
"She tries to assign folks that know each other wherever possible," McMahon said. "Good roommates can get along in a triple, but the odds of some bumps along the road increase with less square footage."
Stephen Hall, in an e-mail to the Orient, reiterated that the number of students who switch their plans to stay at Bowdoin in the spring, what he calls the "rate of attrition," was on the high end of normal this year.
"The attrition rate, again for spring semester only, has ranged over the last five years between 11 percent and 26 percent. For spring 2009, it is currently at 24 percent," Hall wrote. Hall said it is believed 36 students who previously were planning on going abroad in the spring will now remain at Bowdoin.
Hall said after taking into account the attrition rate, roughly 50 percent of the junior class will ultimately go abroad. Hall added that typically 53 percent of a class will go abroad and that last year an unusually high amount, 58 percent, studied off-campus.
Hall said their best projections had 10 more students studying abroad next semester than there will be in actuality, but that this type of variance was fairly typical due to a number of factors—including that many peer schools are seeing a slight dip in abroad numbers.
Foster wrote that there have been fewer cases of students transferring out of Bowdoin, as well as a lower number of December graduates.
Dean of Admissions Scott Meiklejohn said the number of students currently taking time off from Bowdoin was down to eight, while the five-year average was 24.
McMahon said Residential Life knew there was a possibility more students would be staying at Bowdoin in the spring and that housing might have to remain forced.
"We created this capacity for the fall, and then if we had to keep it we would have to keep it," she said.
"Fewer juniors and seniors have lived off campus as a percentage of the class over the past few years. It was kind of a perfect storm," McMahon added.
McMahon noted that this is not the first time the College has had forced housing, and that it probably would not be the last time, either.
Residential Life has renewed its lease with Maine State Music Theater for the Elm Street Apartments through the spring semester.
Junior Alexa Staley recently returned from a semester in New Zealand and will be living in a forced triple in Brunswick Apartments in the spring.
In an e-mail to the Orient, Staley said that while it was very easy to sort out her housing plans, it was not the block's first choice.
"In the spring, we all thought our chances of getting into a Brunswick double were extremely high, and now it obviously is not," Staley wrote. "I do not know if my block would have done it any differently, but I am sure others would [have] and it also would have been nice just to know our true chances before making any decisions."
According to the Office of Institutional Research's Web site, there are currently 1,771 full-time students enrolled at the College, the highest total the data shows, dating back to 1989.
The junior class appears to be smaller than its surrounding classes. Because enrollment numbers only count those who are on-campus, the most accurate comparable data available is from the fall of each class' sophomore year. The current junior class contained 451 students at the beginning of its sophomore year. The current senior class had 457 at that time, and the current sophomore class has 471.
The College started a plan that aimed to increase the incoming first year class by 10 students for five years beginning with the Class of 2013, which entered the fall of 2009 with 494 students, Meikeljohn said.
"Is admissions going to bring in another class of 494? Probably not, if we think that all is going to happen again," Meikeljohn said. "The difference is we got a bigger number faster than we thought."