Have I just become an old crab or does the thought of a college dorm (sorry, residence hall) with a “heated pool, a hot tub, a sand volleyball court and four tanning booths” make you kind of cranky? Today’s Chicago Tribune reports on several luxe facilities featuring everything from walk-in closets to maid service, “communal” 47-inch flat-screen TVs to computer-linked washers and dryers. (The tanning beds, inexplicably, are at Arizona State.)
Although many of these luxurious accommodations come with a hefty premium tacked on to the regular room and board charge, they are being snapped up even in this economy. Nothing, apparently, is too good for current college students. As the Trib writes, “Tom Cheesman, architect of Purdue’s $52 million First Street Towers, said the residence hall is ‘essentially a hotel.’ He said it is especially attractive to ‘helicopter parents who want to send their son or daughter to college campus but give them all the luxuries of home.'”
It’s certainly a far cry from my freshman dorm at Amherst. I lived on the 4th floor (no elevator) with two roommates, neither of whom bathed much, in a room meant for one or maybe two. The fireplace and woodbox revealed the building’s early 20th-century origins, but the former had been blocked up so we relied on the inadequate steam heat that barely reached us in the winter and blasted us finally when it started to get warm. In the depths of a New England January we had an eighth of an inch of ice on the inside of our bedroom window. At least we didn’t have to cart our own wood for the fire.
Somehow, though, we managed to survive and do well. I had bought a new “record player” to bring (it also had an eight track player!) as well as an area rug, a desk lamp, and an electric typewriter I had gotten for graduation. A clock radio, too. Some books, and clothes, as well as some records came in a few boxes. My roommates brought even less. There were students who had a lot more than I did. One of my dorm mates had a huge stereo and a water bed; so I suppose those who had, brought. (One of the Purdue students has been “keeping 30 pairs of shoes at the ready and jamming the bookshelf with every episode of “The O.C.” and “Dawson’s Creek.”” Really? For what?)
Everyone romanticizes their college experiences so I won’t go on, but I do wonder what might have happened if Purdue had spent $52 million dollars on their labs and on faculty. Or if ASU had bought textbooks for low-income students instead of tanning beds. This kind of reckless consumption doesn’t bode well for the future.