In recent years, the quality of the dorms at Lewis & Clark has been one of the most prominent topics brought up in discussions around potential improvements. Although LC finished building Holmes Hall in 2012 and renovated Juniper Hall in 2014 and the Stewart-Odell complex during spring of 2023, the rest of the dorms are still long overdue for renovations. This negatively impacts the quality of living, as students have to deal with both dated utilities and an unstable environment.
Indeed, dorms at any college are certainly not the most luxurious place to live. They are small and cramped with thin walls and uncomfortable beds and often lack private bathrooms. To every new student: Welcome to the real college experience! However, just because most dorms are notorious for their lack of luxuries does not release LC from responsibility for the poor living conditions here. All the dorms except for Holmes, Juniper, Stewart and Odell are due for upgrades since some dated utilities these dorms have can pose health risks for the students living there.
While living in Ponderosa Hall last year as a freshman, I remember the time I came back to school after winter break to find the basement closed off. Apparently, during the winter break, severe winter storms swept through Portland, resulting in the basement being flooded by the heavy rain. The basement was closed for roughly two months, which inconvenienced all of us in Ponderosa, as it was the only place we could access washing machines and dryers.
I felt particularly sympathetic for the six students who lived in the overflow there, since they no longer had a room. As a result, the six students were dispersed to other dorms across campus for the spring semester, while the rest of us had to do our laundry in the other Forest dorms until the basement reopened.
I think that LC could add more washing machines and dryers and make them more accessible to the students living in the dorms. However what concerned me most was how much Ponderosa needed renovations before the basement flooded. It was particularly shocking to me that the walls in the basement contained asbestos, according to the warning sign placed during the renovation. It was certainly about time to remove asbestos due to the health risks associated with it, but it also implies that asbestos could have been present all over Ponderosa Hall.
The unsatisfactory dorm quality is not the only factor that negatively affects the safety of living in the dorms. LC’s dorms are poorly equipped to accommodate the growing student body. The dorms’ maximum capacity does not meet the demand of new students. LC has housed numerous students in overflows, either converting doubles to triples or converting lounge areas to dorm rooms that can hold up to six students. These overcrowded rooms increase fire hazards and the spread of viral and bacterial infections.
Students rely on electronics for schoolwork and many other facets of life. Since there are never enough power outlets in a dorm room, students will add extension cords to charge their electronics. However, connecting multiple extension cords increases the risk of an electrical fire, especially in an overcrowded room. Furthermore, dorms are notorious for not being the most sanitary places to live, and they get even less clean when the number of students accommodated surpasses their maximum capacity.
The lack of renovations of dorm halls and overcrowded rooms have made living conditions at LC concerning. While it is good that LC renovated the Steward-Odell complex last semester, it is time that the school must focus on renovating the rest of the dorms. I am aware that renovating dorms is costly and time-consuming, but LC must step up to improve living conditions.