Every dorm on Northwestern’s campus has its pros and cons when it comes to the conditions of the physical buildings. I live in Fern Smith Hall and I love being a resident of Fern. All of the furniture in the rooms can be moved around so the women of Fern can get creative with the arrangements of their rooms. In the winter, I don’t have to go into the bitter cold to get food because Fern is connected to the cafeteria. Fern is also located relatively close to a lot of the main buildings on campus.
However, there are some cons to living in Fern that accompany those pros. There isn’t any air conditioning, so not only is the building toasty in the winter, it’s also a “Fern-ace” at the beginning and end of the year. Since Fern is connected to the cafeteria, the two places share a lobby area. This makes having all-hall events a little hard because of space and timing. There are lounges located on all three floors of the dorm, but the furniture within these lounges has seen better days.
When compared to the furniture in every other dorm’s lobby and lounge area on campus, Fern’s furniture is significantly older and more used. Some of the furniture pieces that have been brought in over the years are second-hand and were still in fairly good condition when they were added to Fern’s collection. This collection has become a conglomeration of different pieces of furniture, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but several of the pieces are starting to get worn out and show their age. Seeing the condition of the furniture could be a turn off for prospective students who come and visit Northwestern.
When discussing this issue with Lindsay Hubbell, the resident director of Fern, she understood the concerns coming from her residents about the furniture in the lounges. She explained that at the end of each school year, each RD submits a request to Marlon Haverdink, dean of residence life, for various items their dorm needs. There is a rotating budget that exists for making purchases for each dorm. The dorm with the greatest need is given priority. “Typically, one hall is the one chosen for the year,” said Hubbell.
Each hall also has its own budget that is maintained through selling dorm T-shirts and sweatshirts. This money can be used for purchasing food and supplies for all-hall events. However, Hubbell said that Fern’s money could be put towards purchasing new furniture, but the budget isn’t very large at the present time so some more fundraisers would need to take place.
I think the women of Fern could come up with various fundraisers throughout the year in order to raise money to purchase new furniture and some of the other needs in the building. Maybe if Fern as a hall could raise half the money needed, the rest could be provided through the rotating budget.
Hubbell emphasized that Fern has not been neglected when it comes to the rotating budget. Fern was recently provided with a new television for the first-floor lounge because the former one was old and wasn’t working well. This is only Hubbell’s fifth year at NW so she doesn’t know the history of what Fern has received through the budget before she joined the residence life staff. Hubbell believes that Fern’s turn is coming up soon for either new furniture or other needs. “I wouldn’t be surprised if new furniture happens and it’s brought to Fern or Coly,” Hubbell said.
Hubbell also explained that Fern ranks high in terms of satisfaction when the results from the quality of life surveys come in. However, there really isn’t a specific section in the survey that asks about satisfaction with the furniture and facilities of the dorms. The questions in the survey could definitely be more specific so students would be able to voice their opinions and ideas when it comes to their living spaces. Since the surveys were just taken for this year, Fern residents will either need to be patient or come up with fundraisers in order to get some new furniture.