Some Like It Quiet

Acknowledging that some students want to be able to study in their dorm rooms, colleges offer quiet housing options for students who need a calmer environment than the average residence hall might offer. 

November 6, 2012

Not everyone likes to study while listening to their neighbor’s jazz music in one ear and the party next door in the other. So for those who prefer physics problem sets to parties – or at least want the option of studying on a Saturday night – universities designate certain residence halls or floors "quiet."

“Even though we offer many lounges and many spaces on campus where they can study, I think many students are most comfortable studying in their own environment,” said Bridget Reeland, assistant director for residential life at Illinois State University, where about 1,400 of the 6,000 housing spots available are designated as quiet.

Many universities offer quiet housing, though it takes different forms. At some institutions, like Bucknell University, certain floors in a building are designated as quiet housing; others, like Williams College, devote entire buildings to quiet housing. The “quiet” label can mean different things, too. Some colleges require 24-hour quiet hours in the designated areas, while others simply extend the normal quiet-hour policy. At Illinois State University, for example, quiet hours in specific quiet floors or houses last from 7 p.m. until 10 a.m. on weekdays, while quiet hours start at 10 p.m. for everyone else.

Dan Remley, associate dean of students at Bucknell, said he chose to add a quiet housing option 14 years ago, a year into his time at Bucknell, because he wanted students to have many choices. Bucknell students already had the option to live in fraternity or sorority houses, in apartments, in off-campus housing, in residential colleges, or in affinity houses -- which can change based on student interest, but currently include an international house, a music house, a politics house, and an LGBT-friendly house, among others. Quiet housing and substance-free housing, the two options Remley created, were meant to add to the array of choices and perhaps appeal to a different group of students.

“We’re trying to make sure students have whatever they need to succeed,” Remley said. “We wanted students to have many, many housing options.”

At Williams, the decision to add quiet housing was made just three years ago, according to Doug Schiazza, director of the Office of Student Life. Not sure how popular it would be, the housing staff selected a building with 54 beds; the building also happened to be in the middle of campus right next to many academic buildings, so it was a perfect setup for serious studiers looking for a more academic living environment.

In its first year, Williams’s quiet housing program received 120 applications, according to Schiazza. In the two years since it has been closer to 100, but that means demand is still about double what the program can accommodate.

“People have been asking, are we looking at possibly expanding it or using a different building?” Schiazza said. “We don’t have any specific plans yet but we’re certainly open to looking at it in the future.”

He does suspect some of the interest in the quiet house may be related more to its location than its extended quiet hours, but he said so far there have been no issues with residents disturbing others, and most people who opt to live in quiet housing appreciate the environment.

At Bucknell, the program is a little trickier. Rather than devoting an entire building to quiet housing, the university designates a few quiet floors in a residence hall, which, like Williams’s, is located close to major academic buildings. This method allows Bucknell to be flexible with numbers; the housing office can always designate three quiet floors instead of two if demand fluctuates. Sometimes, however, the numbers work out so there are two and a half quiet floors, and that can cause minor complications, Remley said.

Usually, in that situation, the students who are placed on the quiet floor but who didn’t actually apply to be in quiet housing are asked to abide by the quiet living standards. Remley said he often tries to find an affinity group that had requested a house but didn’t get one, because those students are happy just to be living together, or he looks for older students who might appreciate being placed in a quiet room. He also notes that the rooms are some of the nicest on campus – all singles with air-conditioning – so filling a quiet floor is not too difficult a sell.

Of course, having regular floors in the same building can be a small problem, too. Remley notes that there are more problems with noise carrying vertically rather than laterally, and sometimes resident advisers have to step in to deal with disruptions. Still, he said, the program is effective for most people and the others can be relocated to more suitable housing.

A similar issue occasionally pops up at Illinois State, where students sometimes select quiet housing through the online housing system without realizing what they’re signing up for, or are forced to pick a spot on a quiet floor because nothing else is left. These students sometimes end up feeling uncomfortable and restricted, Reeland said, but she notes that most students who live in quiet housing appreciate it.

“For the most part, they really like that they can go to their rooms and have the ability to study,” she said.  


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