Monday, November 2, 2009

the dorm bus

It's a Rutgers bus. But not any old Rutgers bus, making its fast and determined progress between College Ave and Douglass or Busch or Livingston, clipping the odd car (or, on a bad day, another bus) on its way. It's the hotel shuttle bus, sitting waiting for passengers outside the student center, with (on closer inspection) a few depressed black spiders, left over from Halloween, adhering to its windows.

As this article in yesterday's New York Times makes clear, five hundred of our first year students don't have a dorm room, but are being put up in the Crowne Plaza hotel somewhere about five miles away. I can't imagine a more depressing start to one's Rutgers career (a Crowne Plaza hotel ten miles away?). The whole article is about the tendency of state universities to try and make more money out of recruiting out of state students, who will then pay higher fees - something that Rutgers plans to put some energy into doing. And there's certainly financial logic to this - although each out of state student means one place less for a New Jersey student. But how does one go about drumming up enthusiasm? Many of our dorms are not spectacularly seductive at the best of times (I once proposed, fervently, that we shouldn't ever ask new faculty to teach in the basement of the River Dorms in their first year, or they will run screaming away from New Brunswick - in my own first year teaching, I was once stopped in full flow by the sight of a rat scuttling along the pipes outside the window at the back of the dank room). Yet to imagine that we can entice students from New York or Pennsylvania or Connecticut to come here when we offer them a bus ride to and from corporate hotel land, rather than any simulation of vibrant campus life, is a true pipe dream.


  1. I read that article in the NY Times yesterday as well and was saddened by that statistic. Thankfully, I got to live in Demarest all four years of my times on the banks; I can't imagine a more beloved dorm in NJ! I was also surprised to learn about that 10% statistic; I was certainly a minority, hailing all the way from Chicago.

  2. Instead of allowing less spots for NJ students, they actually just enroll too many students and stick them in our lounges for a few weeks while everyone else gets shoved into the hotel. Pretty soon they'll just start moving beds into the bathrooms and tell us to bathe in the Raritan. That would be easier on ResLife, because then they wouldn't have to worry about policing our bathrooms anymore.

  3. I am flummoxed (is that a US word? it's a very Yorkshire one, to me) to be told, this morning, that students apparently *like* living in this hotel. But maybe it's now clear why - it's preferable to sleeping in lounges. Baths are, indeed, when padded out, more or less the right length, at least if you're my height. In my first teaching job, a student stayed behind after class and said "my brother knew you at Oxford!"
    KF: "oh, really?"
    u/grad: "Yes! He says he remembers you sleeping in a bathroom in his college!"
    KF feels her tenuous sense of authority slip sliding away from her...

  4. I haven't seen the article but it is very misinformed. First year students do not reside in the hotel. Transfers likely do not either though there may be a minimal amount. During last year's housing lottery, the hotel spaces were issued to students who did not have housing available. Spaces were reserved on campus for first-year and transfer students, and after they were assigned, people were brought out of the hotel into remaining spaces if available.

  5. This will teach me to regard the NYT as authoritative! Nonetheless, a couple of my own students who read this didn't correct me - or I'd have changed this - and it was - in early November, anyway - certainly received wisdom on campus that these were, or included, first year students.