The luck of the room draw: a student perspective on residence hall inequalities

Ayers Hall, the University’s newest residential hall. Photo courtesy of

By Alexis McKnight
Contributing Writer

Not a day goes by where a Sewanee student doesn’t complain about their dorm room. With multiple dorms being either run-down, without AC, or both, it is impossible for everyone to like their dorm assignment.

New students probably remember the dreadful feeling and curiosity they had about their dorm upon arriving as freshmen. Checking everything they could to figure out what their future year would look like, and possibly realizing there was no AC. Returning students, as well, most likely understand the fear of waiting to pick a dorm at the end of the year. 

There are going to be issues with every dorm. However, the problem arises when dorms fail to reach a certain standard. Having dorms far from central campus is not the problem. Having no air conditioning in this Tennessee heat is the problem. With no air conditioning, some students who suffer from asthma have found it almost essential to get a medical accommodation for a room with AC. Additionally, students with ESA’s should have AC for their pets. 

Further accommodation requests have to be added to our current amenities. Most of the rundown dorms have issues with bugs getting into the building from windows being open at all times. 

Every full-time Sewanee student pays the same room and board fee, no matter where they live. So the question arises: Why do some of the dorms feel unbearable? 

Ayres Hall, a newly renovated, air-conditioned building seems like a luxury to those living in McCrady. Most of the time, when my friends visit in my dorm in McCrady, they refuse to walk up to my room. They would rather sit on the bench outside instead of sitting in my warm room. 

Additionally, there are no technical class segregated dorms. As student Kadie Hicks (C’21)  pointed out, “We do not have class segregated dorms so we shouldn’t have lower rate ones to those who are just unlucky.” Hicks is currently a junior living in Hunter with a senior, who should’ve had a better rate dorm but turned out to be unlucky. 

Naming just a short few of the run-down dorms: McCrady, Gorgas, Cleveland, and Hunter, one would think renovations would come prior to building new dorms. But no that is simply not the case. As I sit in my non-airconditioned room with two fans blowing on me, I still wonder how they can refuse to renovate the rooms even just a bit. 

There are some students, however, who love their room assignment in one of the less ideal dorms. As Courts dorm resident Chloe Balmer (C‘23) stated, “Although there is no AC in my dorm, I still love the social aspect of where I’m living. But, AC would be heavenly.”

Paying the same amount of room and board a run-down as someone living in one of the newly renovated dorms is completely unfair. Students living in worse dorms have to deal with the extreme heat, low quality bathrooms, almost no parking, and oftentimes bugs in the dorms. It is unreasonable to have students pay such a high amount for lower rate dorms when the University continuously builds new buildings and dorms instead of investing into the already existing dorms.  

Although all students pay the same room and board in the regular academic school year, it is completely different for summer school. Student Colin Rice (C’23) said, “When I applied for summer housing, back in the spring of 2019, there were four pricing options. The highest price was for air conditioning, and the cheapest was non.” 

So why is it to do summer classes students can pay different prices, but for full-time students, this option is not available?

The obvious inequalities around dorms on campus is something that needs to be changed. It isn’t necessary that all dorms be completely renovated and changed, but some actions should be made regarding how the University prices the dorms. Action should be taken to allow for a more fair housing environment on campus. 


  1. The proposition that dorms be priced differently begs the obvious question–how would this not create a system in which poorer students were housed separately from richer students? Those with less money to throw around would presumably be wiling to forego A/C for the price cut, and those with wealthy parents would presumably be willing to pay the premium for A/C.The practical result would be the total and complete opposite of a “fair housing environment.” Yeah, not having A/C sucks, but if I remember correctly from my time on the mountain about 15 years ago, it’s character building and really not all that terrible.

  2. I 100% agree with this. I transferred in last year and was placed in Gorgas. While I had to get used to the walk to central campus, that wasn’t my issue. I get both hot and cold very easily, and the lack of A.C. in the dorms made the rooms muggy and most of the time it felt like trying to breath under water. Also, yes, we had problems with bugs, but more importantly we had issues with mould. I’m honestly surprised more people in the dorm weren’t sick all the time, because, while I can’t speak for others’ rooms, I had mould in my room for most of the year, and, of course, I was tasked with trying to scrub it off the walls at the end of the year. I think all the older dorms should be FULLY renovated, have A.C. put in, and be cleared of all mould/bugs. All the students deserve safe, livable conditions, especially for the price we pay for tuition and housing.

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