Reslife adds special interest houses, off-campus permission ahead of enrollment increase

By Katie Futterman

Van Barth
Students will not be able to apply to create superblocks, such as the one pictured above, next year.

As Middlebury plans to return for a fully in-person fall semester, ResLife has replaced superblock houses with new special interest houses and approved all seniors who applied to live off campus next year.

In past years, three properties have been available as superblock spaces. A large group — sometimes close to 40 students — submits an application with a theme and proposed property for a superblock house, then the group splits who lives there across the spring and fall semesters.

Three groups are currently working toward establishing a permanent special interest house. The International House is transitioning from a superblock to a special interest house and will live at 97 Adirondack. The ResLife team is also working with the Center for Community Engagement to establish a Community Engagement house, though they have not finalized a location. The third group is still in early conversation, and ResLife was not able to provide details on their plans. Special interest houses are expected to fill their rosters, but any extra spaces will be available in the open housing selection process in August, according to Associate Dean for Student Life AJ Place.

ResLife also approved 150 seniors, senior Febs and Super Senior Febs to live off campus next fall. This is up from the normal number of about 100 students, who typically must apply and then be selected through a lottery process. Because many students took time off during the Covid-19 pandemic, Place and the ResLife team expects an increase in students returning to campus for the fall. To house the unusually large student population, the college increased the number of off-campus applications that were accepted to live off campus and ended up not needing to run a lottery at all. 

However, not everyone who was approved to live off campus was able to find housing. Massimo Sassi ’22 had planned to live in town with three of his friends for his senior year, hoping to rent the apartment above Shafer’s. 

“We originally wanted to live off campus just so we could start to have more of our own space, kind of separate from the campus. We were thinking about going off the meal plan and buying our groceries and cooking and stuff like that,” he said. 

After the landlord went with other tenants, they found themselves unable to find anywhere else to live. Sassi heard of similar difficulties from many other students as well. Eventually, Sassi and his friends decided to return to the on-campus housing draw. 

According to Sassi, living off campus “wasn’t a dire thing.” 

“In all honesty, it will probably be more convenient to be on campus senior year for being close to classes and not having to drive to school is really nice,” Sassi said. “It was something we were very excited about, but it’s not like we were depending on that for any reason.”

Place said that ResLife expects to return to the lottery process in future years for off-campus housing. 

Louisa Stevens ’23.5 had initially wanted to live in KDR in the fall — a Feb tradition — and Jewett in the spring. 

She was in charge of organizing housing for both groups, but as she browsed online, all of the application information seemed to be based on previous years. She began to hear rumors about changes to superblock housing and eventually decided to email Reslife. 

Stevens was unsure how she would have found out about the changes if she had not emailed. 

“Maybe I would’ve gone and spoken to someone, otherwise I would’ve just been pretty confused,” Stevens said. “It seemed like a roundabout way to get to it because at the end of the day, it’s not happening. I was wondering if maybe they didn’t want to deal with any sort of backlash around taking away superblock housing. Although I do think it’s a disappointment, I’m not entirely sure how the rest of the school would’ve reacted.” 

Now, she will probably live in a suite, just as she does this year. 

“I’m sure they have their reasons for creating the special interest housing, but I do think it’s kind of a bummer that juniors won’t be able to have houses because I think it’s great socially, and just for friend groups to have a break from dorm living. But it kind of is what it is, I guess.”