East Wheelock offers alternative space

The East Wheelock cluster offers an intellectually engaging community for students who are looking for a residential hall that is off the beaten path.

The East Wheelock cluster offers an intellectually engaging community for students who are looking for a residential hall that is off the beaten path.

Dennis Ng / The Dartmouth Staff

By ESTER CROSSThe Dartmouth Staff

Josh Lee '13, who lived in East Wheelock his freshman year, said he met students in the cluster whom he would not have otherwise met. It was not until his sophomore year that he realized the divide between East Wheelock and the rest of campus, especially regarding the prevalence of drinking and the Greek community's influence.

"Freshman year I was very oblivious, I thought that I perfectly enjoyed my Dartmouth experience the way it was and I never felt a moment of detachment," Lee said. "But being an upperclassman, it was very interesting to see that East Wheelock was separated."

Current and former residents of the East Wheelock cluster interviewed praised the facilities and program offerings but said the residential experience could be isolating. Many described East Wheelock as a alternative living space outside of the Dartmouth mainstream.

The results of an Office of Residential Life survey released in the spring of 2011 suggested that students living in East Wheelock were satisfied with their residential experience, Susan Brison, East Wheelock programming director and philosophy professor, said. The office is currently considering expanding living-learning communities at the College.

East Wheelock is a living-learning community that provides intellectual engagement outside of the classroom. The cluster was formed in 1996 to accommodate students seeking different residential experiences from those offered at the time.

"It's the case everywhere on campus that students are having different kinds of experiences," Brison said. "What I hear from students is they feel a lot if pressure to be the stereotypical Dartmouth student."

Kyle McGinty '13, one of three co-directors of East Wheelock's Student Lead Team, said East Wheelock fosters a social and cultural experience that enhances students' academic opportunities beyond the classroom. He compared the decision to live in East Wheelock to living in a Greek house because both are alternatives to the norm of living in a typical dorm.

Chloe Lee '14, also a co-director of the team, said the cluster facilitated her transition to the College. While she said she has learned to appreciate mainstream campus culture, she enjoys have a "quiet part" of campus to retreat to.

She characterized the cluster as accomodating a quieter set of students from the Dartmouth norm.

As a resident of the East Wheelock cluster her freshman year, Nalini Tata '15 fondly recalled stayed up until the wee hours of the morning chatting with her floormates. She said she found the cluster to be isolating, however, and spent most of her time with friends in other residence halls.

"I really didn't spend that much time in East Wheelock freshman year," she said. "I spent maybe 10 percent of my time there."

Though she transferred to Brown University this year, she recalled the "ups and downs" of her social experience in the cluster, which she characterized as divorced from campus social life and intellectually engaging. Tata said her housing situation was a contributing factor in her decision to transfer away from Dartmouth.

While first-year reviews of their East Wheelock experiences are mixed, upperclassmen compete for limited spots in the cluster. Every year, between 200 and 300 upperclassmen apply, and only about 150 students are selected to live in the cluster, community director Josiah Proietti said. Acceptance to the cluster is based on completion of an application submitted prior to the start of each term.

After hearing positive reviews of East Wheelock from friends, Ellen Daily '14 decided to apply to live in the cluster as a sophomore. She got off the waiting list and has been living in the cluster since the fall. She described the community as tight-knit and academically oriented.

Ellen Wu '15 chose to live in East Wheelock again as a sophomore after her first-year experience. Well-kept facilities, a personal bathroom and single availability convinced her to apply for housing in the cluster. The cluster provides a good experience for students who have different interests in social activities, despite stereotypes and rumors surrounding the cluster's social life, Wu said.

Despite perceptions that first-year students disproportionately choose to leave certain residence halls, especially East Wheelock, students transferred out of all residence clusters in equal numbers, according to associate director Elicia Rowan.

First-years typically switch rooms because of medical needs and roommate differences, she said.

The Class of 2014 saw 19 students change residency during their freshman year, while the Class of 2015 saw 20. The Class of 2016 has so far accommodated 22 student residency changes.

Rowan declined to provide information regarding the number of students who left each residential cluster, citing student confidentiality.

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