Saturday, August 13th 2011

Today’s post is going off of a pretty solid assumption that everyone who would be reading this has seen Mean Girls. Just as Janice Ian and Damian give Cady the breakdown of the North Shore High School cafeteria, I will provide prospective students, incoming freshmen, and oblivious current students with the insider scoop on each dorm at Amherst College. This is crazy long so maybe read only a section at a time.

Disclaimer: Although I try to be relatively neutral, this is MY blog and as a result, some of my opinions may sneak their way into the comments. Students and alumni may disagree with some of this. Hope that's okay.

Freshman Housing: Situated around one majestic quad, Amherst first-years live like kings and queens in these seven buildings. Not only are the dorms (generally) beautiful, they are centrally located to Val, Merrill, Frost, and the gym. So fetch.

  • James & Stearns: These twins sit on the east side of the quad and are connected underground by a hallway of music practice rooms, the laundry room, and storage. My freshman year, James was the hot spot of shenanigans. As a result of too much fun and a few heathens (but really just one person in particular), James residents got crazy dorm damage1 that year; Stearns had a similar issue. I think this influenced Residential Life’s decision to make Stearns substance-free2 this past year. The idea of sub-free Stearns is bizarre to most upperclassmen.
  • Charles Pratt: The Aaron Samuels of Amherst dorms-everyone wants it and will fight like savage animals (on the housing questionnaire3) to get it. Chuck Pratt is arguably too large, holding around 100 students. This makes bonding and trips to the bathroom really obnoxious. It’s as if the building ate a few too many Kalteen Bars.
  • North & South: Opposite the quad from James and Stearns, these are the two oldest buildings on campus. I stayed inside South during my visit as a high school senior and have not been back inside either since. The rooms are a little smaller than most but you can bunk the beds to add space. I think North is sub-free and South was but is no longer? It’s tough to keep up with ResLife’s wild antics.
  • Williston: Poor Williston. It’s so small and average-looking on the outside, everyone forgets about it. However, it boasts a surprisingly nice interior and the small number of residents there allows for a tighter community feel.
  • Appleton: Dubbed Crappleton, people hate on my freshman dorm all the time for being the ugly duckling of the flock. Although the hallway/common room aesthetics are dismal, the rooms themselves are big and clean. The 3rd floor RC room is the largest single on campus.

The Socials: This is my jam. When I move in on August 26th, I will officially become a three-year resident of the social quad…by choice. The five socials consist of suites with private common rooms and bathrooms. Every Saturday night opens up a massive can of worms inside of the common rooms with endless dancing, sweating, screaming, and other party-related gerunds. Graduating from Amherst having not danced on a windowsill in the socials is a crime. These are the nastiest dorms on campus. These are the most fun dorms on campus. You win some, you lose some. Kevin Gnapoor seemed inconspicuous but ended up being the one of the craziest characters in Mean Girls. The same goes for the socials.

  • Stone: Home sweet Stone. I lived here sophomore and junior year with my three best friends. Stone hosts the annual Shamrock –n-Roll TAP4. I once sleepwalked up the stairs into another Stone suite.
  • Crossett: CROSSETT CHRISTMAS TAP IS ONE OF THE BEST NIGHTS AT AMHERST COLLEGE. Every suite in the building covers the common room walls in wrapping paper and other decorations, makes holiday-themed drinks, and commits to holding a party for the entire evening. It’s a festive evening of red and green overload, shoving through stairwells, and losing your coat.
  • Davis: White Out TAP occurs in the basement of Davis every spring. Think neon accessories, glow-in-the-dark sunglasses, and lots of techno.
  • Pond: Although it hosts no TAP, Pond is a party haven throughout the entire year. The past two years in particular included PAPs, or Pond Amherst Parties, thrown in suite 111. The eccentric and outgoing group of guys that lived there made sure that the campus was never lacking in fun or beverages. My roomies and I made a move diagonally across the social quad to live in Pond our senior year.
  • Coolidge: Historically the least social of the social dorms, I honestly have nothing to say about Coolidge.

Theme Housing: If students possess an interest in a particular language, culture, or lifestyle, they can apply to live in dorms with like-minded peers.

  • Humphries: Commonly referred to as The Zu, this is a co-op where residents are off of the Val meal plan and cook together in the dorm instead. The stereotypical Zu-dweller is a harmonica-playing hipster vegan who drinks out of mason jars. (Yes, this is a gross generalization. See the disclaimer.) Live bands will perform at The Zu sometimes, but I’ve yet to go to a single event there because it is wicked far away from everything on campus.
  • Drew: Black culture house. I went here once for a party and they had a great DJ. Nice kitchen.
  • Porter: German and Russian house. With the German department, Porter throws an Oktoberfest soiree every year.
  • Marsh: Arts house. A coffee house/poetry slam/interpretive dance thing happens here every now and then. Marsh has a huge ballroom that is great for parties and a porch ideal for grilling out.
  • Moore: La Casa, the Latino culture house, is Moore 3rd floor and the Asian culture house is Moore 4th floor. If you live on the first or second floors, you’re probably a sophomore or an unlucky junior because Moore isn’t the nicest dorm. I guess the sizeable singles make up for the peeling 1960s wallpaper.
  • Newport: French and Spanish house. Malu Dee ’11 lived here sophomore year in a room no larger than your standard walk-in closet. You can find the best kitchen on campus in the basement.
  • Valentine: Health and Wellness, aka sub-free house. For those confused readers who recall me mentioning Val as the dining hall in other posts, you are correct. The two floors above the actual food area are dorms for students who like quiet living arrangements.

Randoms: These dorms fly solo.

  • Cohan: As described by Julie Keresztes ’12, living in Cohan is like “being a character in a bad video game.” From the outside, Cohan appears to have three floors; in actuality, there are six due to common spaces in between each floor. It’s hard to describe, but trust me - it’s more confusing than Karen’s weather reports.
  • Garman: I mix up Garman and Porter in my mind all the time. I think The Option, our student-to-student resale bookstore, is in the basement. Or is that Porter?
  • Hamilton: Just as Regina George is the queen bee of North Shore, Hamilton is the mack daddy of Amherst housing. Seniors always take Hamilton first in Room Draw because it’s pristine and ideally located. The rooms are huge (the singles could be doubles and the doubles could be triples) and the ballroom is a good size for parties because it’s not awkwardly large or too cramped.
  • Chapman: I think only ten or so students live in Chapman at a time, and it’s in a weird spot across from the gym, so who really knows what goes on there. Apparently the kitchen is a nice selling point.

Taplin and Jenkins: These are sort of like the socials but are too far away from the other five to really be considered a part of the quad. They have suites for 4, 6, or 10 people.

The Triangle: Three former fraternity houses5, these dorms have recently been renovated and house mostly seniors with a few juniors and the occasional sophomore sprinkled in. The ballrooms are regularly used for sports teams’ formals and the walls in all three are paper-thin. You can hear your neighbor sneeze.

  • Hitchcock: My second home last year (miss you, class of 2011!), Hitchcock threw some great Halloween, Christmas, and Homecoming parties in the past few years. This is a very large dorm by Amherst standards and still got really crowded on Saturday nights.
  • Mayo-Smith and Seelye: I grouped these two together because they don’t usually get as much publicity as Hitchcock, although that might change this year with a fun group of seniors running the show.

Morris Pratt and Morrow: MoPratt and Morrow face each other on the quad behind the library. MoPratt is mostly sophomores, Morrow is mostly juniors. MoPratt is rumored to have once been a mental institution and is now haunted. Oh snap.

The Hill: Along with Marsh, these dorms (also converted frat houses) are on a hill that is in a pretty far corner of campus. Their substantial common spaces would make The hill a bumpin’ party spot if everyone weren’t too lazy to walk all the way there.

  • Plimpton and Tyler: Rented out to Hampshire College for the past year or two, no one has heard much about The Hill for a while. Recently renovated and reopened to Amherst students, a lot of sophomores will be there this year and I think they’re looking to reestablish the fun reputation The Hill once had.

Waldorf-Astoria and Plaza: These are trailers. This is not a joke. They were built as ‘temporary’ housing when the school was renovating a bunch of dorms. I think they’ve been around for six or so years at this point. The rooms are big but the location is undesirable. Did I mention they are trailers? At least the school had a sense of humor in naming them.

King and Weiland: Oh baby, I love King and Weiland. They look like hotels on the inside. Perks: big singles, lots of desk space and storage, really beautiful common spaces. Drawbacks: on the corner of campus, usually taken by thesis writers so generally lacking in fun activities. My freshman year, Weiland threw some of the best parties Amherst has seen. King and Weiland can be cast as Gretchen Weiners: well-groomed and slightly neurotic.

1When something in a dorm gets messed up to a point where it costs the school money to fix it (i.e. broken chairs, holes in the walls) and they don’t have specific culprits to charge, the cost of repair is divvied up amongst all of the residents of that building equally. Those $0.50 fees add up.
All freshman dorms are technically substance-free, meaning alcohol is prohibited in those buildings. If those living there wish to drink, they have to go elsewhere on campus. Students who don’t drink at all and want to live with others who lead similar lifestyles can choose to live in a sub-free dorm. These dorms are usually quieter and cleaner.
The summer before you arrive on campus as a freshman, you fill out a survey that asks about your living habits so ResLife can hand-pick your ideal roommate. They have a space for additional comments and a lot of people request Charles Pratt, although I don’t think it makes a difference.
TAP=The Amherst Party. The Social Council throws a TAP every month or so. TAPs are school-sponsored so they have rules and stuff.
5Amherst abolished Greek life in the early 1980's. The old frat houses are now beautiful dorms.