Mitchell, West and Guthridge halls will house only freshmen during the two-year Thurston Hall renovations, officials said.
Seth Weinshel, the assistant dean of students, said Guthridge, which currently houses upperclassmen, will be filled with first-year students this fall in addition to mostly freshmen residence halls West and Mitchell. Weinshel said officials chose to convert Guthridge to an all-freshman hall because of its location on the 2000 block of F Street, which is located near first-year halls Potomac and Mitchell.
“Each building has its own community space and the resident advisers will program that space and program for the residents to connect them,” Weinshel said. “I anticipate with first-year students because they’re wanting to connect, we’ll end up with strong communities in Guthridge.”
Officials proposed a complete gut renovation to Thurston Hall in December 2018, and the Zoning Commission approved renovation plans for the building in December 2019. Weinshel said Guthridge, Mitchell and West halls will house only freshmen at least during the renovations, and officials will re-evaluate whether to convert the buildings back to upperclassmen housing when construction wraps up.
Officials are also increasing the number of off-campus housing exemptions they offer from 600 to 650 spots next academic year to accommodate the change, he said.
Weinshel added that next year’s housing rates will be approved in a Board of Trustees meeting Friday.
He said he hopes the all-freshman residential community on the Vern will grow with the aid of Residence Hall Association programming and the addition of living and learning communities, or cohorts that house students studying a similar topic.
“I anticipate that community to become a strong community, and our staff will help connect students to the greater GW community,” Weinshel said.
The University came to an agreement last summer to house third- and fourth-year students in the Aston and One Washington Circle while renovations are underway.
RHA President Trinity Diaz said freshmen living in Guthridge Hall, which is equipped with individual kitchens, will have to learn to cook and budget for groceries, which most freshmen don’t currently need to consider. Fulbright Hall, which transitioned to house only freshmen last year, is the only freshman hall that includes kitchens in each individual room.
Diaz said freshman cooking classes and GW’s Supermarket Sunday deals, which offer a $10 discount when students spend $40 on groceries at Safeway or Whole Foods, will help freshmen adjust to living with a kitchen.
She said Fulbright Hall residents have used their individual kitchens to cook together with friends, and she hopes Guthridge’s in-room kitchens will facilitate bonding experiences and community for incoming freshmen.
“If anything, they’ll have more space inside of their rooms to bring over their friends and build that community and strengthen ties with other buildings, because they have a place for their friends to hang out and cook meals together,” Diaz said.
Brooke Cody, the RHA council president for Mitchell, said living in a building with only single rooms provides students with a balance between individual spaces and interacting with other students in their hall.
“With it being only freshmen next year, the sense of community we have now will only be heightened especially because Thurston won’t be there, so they’ll probably be more activity and an increase in sociability in Mitchell,” Cody said.
Chris Zuniga, a sophomore West Hall resident, said freshmen will enjoy the close community found in West and living in a renovated building.
“While they might not have the biggest social network, they’ll definitely have a network that is more tight-knit,” Zuniga said. “I’ve noticed that the people with the most tight-knit friendships are Vernies, and beyond that, I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about Thurston and the situations over there. West is a new building, everything is new, you never have to submit a Fix-It, and I think it’s a really good introduction to college life.”
He said he chose to live in West because housing on the Vern is more affordable than housing on the Foggy Bottom Campus, and he prefers the Vern’s quietness compared to Foggy Bottom.
“My biggest concern going into next year is if they’re removing these students almost by force from West, will they then be forced to pay higher prices for another residence hall?” Zuniga said. “With Guthridge gone as well, where are you going to go if you want something affordable?”