Too Comfortable for Its Own Good?

Was the renovation of Mellon Hall too successful?
In undertaking the work, HBS housing officials intended to make the dormitory more comfortable for students, and the building’s initial residents have responded enthusiastically, with a whopping 68 of the 72 first-year residents of Mellon opting to renew their leases for next year.

But that achievement is putting stress on another aspect of the HBS housing system. In a typical year, roughly half of the residents are expected to move out before term 3, so the high Mellon renewal rate is putting a crimp in the supply of rooms available for the Class of 2003.

While admitted students have raised concerns about the availability of rooms on the prematriculation web site, Robert Breslow, director of administrative services, said he still expects several students to cancel their commitments to live in the dorms next fall, opening up additional slots for the newcomers.

Breslow said he is aware that the stiff penalties for resident who cancel their dormitory renewals at this stage could discourage such turnover, but said the school has not yet considered suspending those penalties in an effort to encourage dormitory residents to move out.

“We know we take a really hard line about people trying to cancel, but the policy has worked well-it really forces people to think hard about signing a dormitory license,” Breslow said.
An additional complication this year is the construction of the new graduate student apartments at One Western Avenue (see related article, page 1). Many apartments in Soldiers Field Park Building Six directly face the work site, and administrators believe that at least some dormitory residents who would have moved into SFP have decided to stay put rather than deal with the construction site’s noise and dust.
Ironically, housing was one area that HBS administrators believed would become easier to manage once the two cohorts were combined into a single class. In the long run, administrators said they still expect that will be the case, especially once the additional apartments in the Western Avenue building are available.

Because of the heavy student population throughout the Boston area, apartments are typically much more plentiful in July and August than in December, when January cohort members were typically house-hunting.

“Housing is always a challenge,” said Professor W. Carl Kester, chairman of the MBA program. “It’s just, I’m afraid, a fact of life in this urban environment. But I don’t know that it will be any harder, overall, than having people come in January, which is not a high-turnover month.”