Between picking the bedding and deciding the decor, your dorm room tends to represent your personality. But does your dorm community do the same? Here’s a look at Binghamton University’s five dorm complexes, as Pipe Dream gets to the essence of what living in each community is really like.
DICKINSON: WHERE EVERY HOUR IS QUIET HOUR
There’s no denying that Dickinson gets a bad rap: It’s the dead-last dorm pick. Its five buildings are really old. And it’s common to find students trading a night out for a night studying.
‘When I think of Dickinson,’ said senior accounting major Ryan Walsh, ‘I think of people who didn’t get their first or second choice in housing.’
And according to the University’s official count, out of the 3,000 new students who used the online housing application (2,258 new freshman, 628 new transfers, and 182 exchange students), only 149 requested Dickinson as their first choice.
Current faculty master Jeff Barker said that although his staff tend to comment on the less-than appealing architecture when asked, he’s fine with cultivating the community’s reputation as studious.
‘Dickinson students tend to be very serious, they tend to be the studiers,’ Barker said. ‘If you walk by in the afternoon or evening there’s always somebody in the study lounge.’
Barker said that in Dickinson, which celebrated its 50th anniversary last year, studying has always been important: Dickinson’s first faculty master, Paul Smith, made academics a priority.
‘He did everything to take care of the students living in the halls and also tried to add some academic content or academic aspects to what was going on here,’ Barker said.
But it’s also the openness to diversity found in Dickinson that the area prides itself on ‘ it houses the largest number of Educational Opportunity Program students, Barker said. EOP, as it’s abbreviated, allows students to go to college who come from poorer backgrounds and who might not otherwise have been accepted. The program provides them extra classes, tutoring and other support, and its summer orientation program focuses on promoting academic excellence, cultural awareness and social responsibility, says its mission statement.
According to Grace Hoefner, senior associate director of residential life, EOP students are fairly evenly distributed across the five dorm communities, with around 46 in each. But Barker said that during summer orientation more than half of EOP students are placed in Dickinson, with the others placed elsewhere on campus.
‘Previous EOP students tell new EOP students to request Dickinson,’ Barker said, ‘and by having a history of a diverse population here, it can be comfortable to new students coming in.’
And of course, no matter a dorm’s reputation, the people you live with can make all the difference, said Emily Goodstone, a junior psychology major.
Goodstone lived in Dickinson her freshman year and while she was unhappy at first, she wound up liking her floor and the people she lived with.
‘Because it has such a bad reputation, on the whole it is quieter and there is less going on because people don’t want to live there,’ she said. ‘It really was all about who I was living with and how amazing they were, which made the experience better than I would have thought.’
HINMAN: ALL BY MYSELF, AND OK WITH IT
Typically known by outsiders to be more quiet and anti-social than other dorm communities, Hinman has really just been independent from the start.
Hinman, which sits across from Lecture Hall, was one of the first places on campus to offer independent, apartment-like suites ‘ in contrast to the corridor-style rooms you’d find then in Dickinson and Newing.
Finished in 1967, Hinman was special for having its own dining hall, faculty master and an academic center that includes classrooms, faculty offices and a library. The community was original. While today all five dorm complexes have many of these features, that idea of innovation stayed within Hinman.
Over the years, theater companies, supper clubs, the pioneering of co-rec football and more have given Hinman a character that its dedicated current and former residents say is like no other dorm on campus.
‘We started a Little Theater group (known today as The Hinman Production Company) in 1971-72 which put on four productions a year (Paul Reiser, Gary Levine and Carol Leiffer were among the alums),’ said Bob Giomi, former head resident of Lehman Hall and Hinman’s director of social and academic programs. ‘We started a Supper Club where we had a ‘by reservation only’ special dinner or dessert and, believe it or not a full-bar, plus a show by sometimes professional entertainers or sometimes in house performances. And we created the Hinman Follies in which we filled the, at that time, women’s gym with 900 students most of whom participated in the song/skit parodies.’
In his senior year, Brent Gotsch ’07 undertook documenting the history of the area in his 730-page book, ‘The History of Hinman College: The First 40 Years.’ He suspects that Hinman gets tarred with being anti-social because it’s so independent.
‘We catch flak from the Student Association for not participating in things like Campus Wars or [not] being overly involved in campus-wide activities, but that’s because we have our own events and traditions that we cherish,’ he said.
One cherished tradition that Hinman couldn’t keep from spreading was co-rec football.
Now popular across campus, co-rec football ‘ in which women must not only be part of each team but serve as the quarterback ‘ was the brainchild of Giomi, the former Hinman social director.
‘We started in 1971 and it grew to 30 teams when I left,’ Giomi said. ‘We had a championship weekend which comprised a parade with floats, a halftime show where one year we had a marching band of middle school kids perform, a championship game and a dance.’
Through the years, Hinman has experimented with loosening the rules to make dorm living there even more independent.
A pet policy was enacted in 1971, which allowed students to have cats and dogs in the residence halls. And Hinman made Roosevelt Hall the ‘cooking dorm’ in 1973, for students who didn’t want to eat the dining hall food or buy a meal plan, but did not want to move off campus. (Both the pet policy and the ‘cooking dorm’ were rescinded in 1984.)
Tony Toluba, ’79, who wrote science fiction stories for ‘Hinman Halitosis,’ the area’s newspaper that died in 1993, seems to sum up why many residents like Hinman over competing communities.
He recalled one of his pieces, parodying ‘Star Trek,’ in which the crew of the USS Enterprise orbits above BU and scans each of the dorms.
‘One seemed to be hidden away in the woods as if the residents were ashamed to be there (CIW). One had life but no intelligence (Newing); another intelligence but no life (Dickinson),’ he said. ‘That’s how the Enterprise crew chose Hinman.’
COLLEGE-IN-THE-WOODS: FRIENDLY AND FREE-SPIRITED SINCE 1969
Maybe it’s the surrounding woods or its annual Woodstock event, but College-in-the-Woods is known for being extremely social with a hint of that hippie vibe.
Ironically, even from the beginning that atmosphere existed because it was green-thinking protesters who forced CIW closer together.
‘It was built in a wooded area, over the objections of the local environmentalists,’ said CIW’s faculty master since 2000, Anthony Preus.
When initially planned this community, was to be roughly the size of Hinman College, with a lot of space between the buildings.
But the environmentalists were unhappy about the number of trees that would be cut down, Preus said. In response to those objections the footprint of the area was shrunk by moving CIW’s four original dorms, Oneida, Onondaga, Seneca and Cayuga halls, much closer together.
Preus feels the tighter blueprint has made CIW, which sits east of the Nature Preserve, the friendly and social place it’s known to be.
‘The layout of the floors in the original buildings is good at facilitating social interaction because each floor is its own little community,’ Preus said.
Unlike the other complexes, the original four dorms are divided into two distinct wings that have split-level floors. Each floor is mostly corridor-style double rooms, with two suites in each corner and typically a designated triple, which accommodates three roommates. The wings and floors all share common areas in the center of the building, used as either lounges for studying or socializing.
The first two dorms were opened in 1969, while the other two, along with the dining hall and office building, opened in 1972. Added in 2001, CIW’s fifth and final building, Mohawk Hall, is all suites.
Preus believes that this social atmosphere, which the architecture promotes, is among the reasons CIW is one of the most requested communities on campus (1,049 students, to be exact, the second most-requested community after Mountainview).
‘The students that live here are the ones that wanted it bad enough,’ Preus said. ‘They were on top of things, aware and aggressive and it tells a lot about their character.’
Katie Hall, a junior history major, liked CIW enough to live in both Onondaga and Seneca halls.
‘I think CIW is the most social dorm,’ Hall said. ‘We’re the smartest because all the cool scholars live here. It’s the in-the-woods hippie dorms. We’re the hippie nerds.’
NEWING: IT’S ALL GREEK TO THEM
Even in the early days of the 1960s, when fraternities and sororities were all but nonexistent at Binghamton, Newing College had a rap for being a party zone.
‘Newing has always had the reputation as being a bit on the wild side, perhaps it’s since the area is on the edge of campus,’ said August Mueller, Newing’s faculty master from 1984 to 1988. ‘Year after year the area seems to live up to its reputation of being the fun one, and Newing students are a loyal, fun-loving bunch.’
Before 1985, when New York’s drinking age was still 18, a big Newing tradition known campus-wide was Octoberfest, a beer-drinking festival featuring live music.
‘Bands came in and we set up tents to sell beer,’ said. Robert L. Pompi, Newing’s faculty master from 1974 to 1979 and recently retired associate professor of physics. ‘Newing always had a lot of activity. There were always parties during the weekends in the different halls and it was a fun atmosphere.’
Then there was the time in the 1960s, when Lake Lieberman was host to a student channeling Evel Knievel.
On that sunny spring Saturday, he tried to fly over the lake on his bicycle, Mueller said. With the university administration’s blessing, around 1,000 people gathered around the lake to watch him fly off the ramp he built ‘ and take a nosedive into the lake on his first and only attempt.
‘The student wasn’t harmed but perhaps disappointed,’ Muller said. ‘I got the feeling he thought it would really work. His costume included a ‘Superman-type cape.’
It was during the 1980s that greeks became more popular at Binghamton. Earlier, the campus had only one or two fraternities, Pompi said. Yet as Greek Life grew to the 20 or so frats and sororities around today, Newing made it a point to reach out and stay in contact with its members, said William Ziegler, Newing’s current faculty master and an associate professor of computer science.
‘I believe it developed out of the sense of community that prevails in Newing,’ Ziegler said. ‘As greek life became more popular, Newing seemed to be a natural fit since they were already an outgoing and social group of students.’
David Jolly, a sophomore political science major and member of the Tau Epsilon Phi fraternity, said members of the fraternities and sororities now choose to live close together in Newing for a strong presence.
‘I think that a good amount of freshmen who live here know what they are getting into and that a lot of rushing goes on in the dorms,’ he said.
MOUNTAINVIEW: IT CAN BE LONELY AT THE TOP
As the newest complex, Mountainview remains one of the most sought-after communities on campus. But its all-suite design means students need to really make the effort to socialize.
Opening in 2003, Mountainview had the most new students seeking to live there, with 1,074 requests.
But in traditional corridor-style Binghamton dorms, students are in constant contact with one another, whether to walk to the bathroom, move among rooms or gather in groups in a lounge. That’s not necessarily the case in Mountainview, where each suite is a self-contained apartment complete with its own bathroom and living room.
‘It can be fairly anti-social since the suites have common rooms which can distance the people in the suite from their hallmates,’ said Erik DeMonte, a junior accounting major who as a freshman forced himself to pop into other people’s rooms to mingle.
But mingling is not on his agenda now that he’s an upperclassman.
‘Especially being a junior and not as eager to make new friends, I have barely gotten to know my floor because, unfortunately, without the effort it is very alienating to live in Mountainview,’ DeMonte said.
So the staff of Mountainview’s Marcy, Hunter, Windham and Cascade halls have a challenge: get people out of their rooms.
‘The Mountainview community is full of potential, in that there is always something to do ‘ as long as you’re willing to leave your room and go find it,’ said Gregory Steele, the housing office’s assistant director who supervises Mountainview.
He added: ‘I think many people perceive Mountainview as a place that because of its location (up the mountain) and its setup (suites-style living), is quiet and secluded.’
Without decades of traditions and thousands of alumni like the other four dorms have, Mountainview’s leadership has to try extra hard to get students involved. Steele’s staff urges residents to do things like attend events run by resident assistants, join a game of soccer on the field or attend a dorm council meeting.
‘It may take more initiative than [is] necessary in other (more traditional areas),’ Steele said, ‘but it ends up being worth it in the long run because you’re living with 1,100 trying to do the exact same thing.’