First-years triple up in dorm rooms

Due to an increase in enrollment, many more triples were added to Gaines and Graham-Lees


Fran McDonough’s lofted room in Gaines houses three first-year women. Photo by Maddie Smith, ‘22.

Maddie Smith

When thinking of first-year college roommates, a picture of two people perched atop twin beds usually comes to mind. But this is not the case for some Washington and Lee first-year students.

Due to an increase in enrollment to 474 first-year students, more triples were added in both Gaines and Graham-Lees dorms. Students have greeted this situation with mixed emotions, especially those without lofts.

Ethan Bernstein, ‘22, Jacob Thompson, ‘22, and Will Winstead, ‘22, reside in a single floor room on the second floor of Gaines (as opposed to a lofted triple room) and have had to find creative ways to fit all of their items.

“We have to find innovative ways to organize stuff and still settle with a common area,” Thompson said. “There’s nowhere for me to hang my towel, so I have to hang it in my wardrobe.”

Thompson added he would have only taken this living arrangement voluntarily if he was guaranteed Bernstein and Winstead as roommates. He said he would not have chosen to be in another triple “even if [his] roommates were average.”

The three make the most of the arrangement, but it’s not always easy.

“Honestly, I think it is too small,” Bernstein admitted. “But if you loft all three of the beds and put both the dresser and desk under it, you have room for a small living space.”

Fran McDonough, ‘22, lives in a lofted triple in Gaines. It consists of a first floor living area with desks and a closet. A spiral staircase connects the upstairs where three beds and dressers are kept.

“The triple loft is pretty roomy,” McDonough said. “[There is] definitely enough room for all of us.”

McDonough said having two roommates is sometimes a struggle, since one might sometimes feel like a “third wheel,” but the situation is helpful for meeting more people. McDonough’s qualms about the loft include feeling like she is always going up and down the spiral staircase to get different things, and that it is an oddly shaped room. McDonough stressed that it is nice “to have two people looking out for [her]” during her transition to college.

This year, Washington and Lee University equalized pricing in first-year dorms, meaning that it costs the same amount for students to live in a single, double or triple. Dean for First-Year Experience Jason Rodocker stated in an email that this change “has been well received overall.”

“The change encourages everyone to select their preferred housing situation regardless of cost,” Rodocker said. “Despite singles being less expensive this year, we still had more [first-years] request doubles than we had available, so we decided to utilize a few more triples than last year to provide more students a roommate experience.”

Some single-floor triples, like Bernstein, Thompson and Winstead’s, seem closer in size to their double room counterparts.

Rodocker explained the triples in first-year housing were all actually designed to be triples after Gaines’ and Graham-Lees’ most recent renovations.

But Thompson maintains that “sometimes it feels like we’re in a double.”

The boys also believe that, while their room may have been designed as a triple, it had been functioning as a double until now.

Rodocker said that in the future, the university is not expecting to use any more rooms as triples than it did this year.