The demise of the Gardens
For the past four years, the infamous Colby Gardens has been home to approximately 60 students each semester. The dormitory, which is located on Western Avenue less than a mile from campus, was leased in the summer of 2005 from the Ursuline Sisters' convent and will be discontinued as student housing next year. Senior Associate Dean of Students Paul Johnston explained that three major factors influenced the College's decision to open the Gardens: there were fewer juniors who chose to study abroad in the fall semester of 2005, more students than usual returned from personal leave and approximately 20 fewer students than in previous years opted to live off campus. Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Parker J. Beverage said, "My colleagues and I in the Admissions and Financial Aid Office were partly responsible for the creation of Colby Gardens, in a year when we saw a higher-than-expected yield among first-year applicants admitted to Colby." Assistant Director of Campus Life Jessica Dash, who was a student when the Gardens first opened, noted that "for the first years, [Campus Life] had to guarantee beds...[and] we couldn't force students to live off campus." Thus, Johnston was faced with the task of finding new and immediate housing before the school year began. The search committee considered a variety of options, including renting out the top floor of the local Holiday Inn. In the end, it was fortunate to find the Gardens, formerly a nunnery owned by the Ursuline Sisters. Special Assistant to the President Janice Kassman described the addition of the Gardens as being difficult at first. "When we first told students, mainly sophomores who were on the housing waiting list over the summer, that they would be living in a converted convent, there were mixed reactions: from shock to disbelief to resignation," Kassman said. "Once students got to campus and saw the accommodation, I think they were pleased." Local neighbors were also concerned about increased noise and traffic levels, but their fears were unfounded. "In an ironic twist, the only time the police were called the first year was when a dog owned by a neighbor bothered one of the Colby Garden students," Kassman said. In previous years, students have created neighborly bonds with the nuns, who live in a small house next door. On a few occasions, the sisters have come to the Gardens to visit and to see what changes have been made to their former convent. Students who live in the Gardens receive several benefits to compensate for the fact that they are farther away from the main campus. The Colby Gardens Shuttle offers daily van service to and from the Gardens. Students who are going to class or a dining hall can ask the Shuttle driver to drop them off on location, which is particularly useful in the winter. "The shuttle drivers are amazing," Gardens resident Toni Tsvetanova '11 said. "They [have] become our friends." In addition, students in the Gardens have a large kitchen that is stocked daily by Dining Services. The dorm has been set up with wireless Internet access. However, cable television and phone capabilities are not available in student rooms. There are four large lounges with televisions and DVD players, as well as recreational games. The facility has a fully equipped exercise room. Many rooms even come with a sink inside. Two of the largest incentives for living in the Gardens are a $500 tuition cut per semester as well as a 25 percent reduction in ones housing lottery number for the following year. Despite its relative success, at the end of this academic year, the College will not be renewing its lease for the Gardens. "With the graduation of the Class of 2009, we expect to have a melt in demand for on campus housing," explained Associate Director of Campus Life Kimberly Kenniston. The Class of 2009 was the larger than expected group of incoming students that influenced the decision to open the Gardens. Tsvetanova had already made plans to live in Colby Gardens next year. "[My friends and I] had set our plans...we were upset they closed." Even staff members who resided in the Gardens for the year said they enjoyed their stay. "Unlimited orange juice...a gym, public computers and so many single rooms...no other dormitory matches it," remarked William Fassett, an AmeriCorps VISTA working in the Goldfarb Center. "I understand why it's being closed, but there's a core group of people here who will dearly miss it." Several shuttle drivers expressed disappointment when they heard the Gardens were closing. Not only had they formed bonds with the students, but some wonder what role they will play on the Hill next year. Other students, however, are relieved that the Gardens are closing. "In a school as campus oriented as Colby, it would have been weird to have been separated like that," said Jennifer Beatty '12. "It's one less stress in room draw, especial since I have a very bad number."