c/o Aiden Malanaphy, Senior Staff Photographer

c/o Aiden Malanaphy, Senior Staff Photographer

At the beginning of the 2021 fall semester, 174 University students checked in at the Middletown Inn–but not for vacation. Due to the high enrollment of the class of 2025 and the low number of students studying abroad, the Inn is currently a new undergraduate housing option.

The Inn offers mostly double and single occupancy rooms, along with a few two-room doubles. Each room comes with one desk and a closet, and doubles have an extra wardrobe and dresser each to accommodate two residents. 

“Students either have full, queen, or king-sized beds and private baths that are cleaned weekly,” Director of Residential Life Maureen Isleib wrote in an email to The Argus. “The Inn provided one set of sheets for the queen and king sized beds. Every room is also equipped with a refrigerator and television.”

Students living in the Inn find that the beds and private bathrooms are a huge perk of hotel living. Thais Garcia ’23 said she enjoys living in her single.

“It’s a nice hotel, it’s pretty, I like my room, I like the bed and everything,” Thais Garcia said. “It’s a pretty good size for a single, especially compared to other singles on campus.”

Residential Advisor (RA) for the Inn Messiah DeSisso ’24 found the bathrooms to be an improvement to dorm living. 

“I would say having my own bathroom is the biggest plus,” DeSisso said. “Even when I talk to some of my residents and people who live here, having the freedom of having your own bathroom and just get up and go–I love it, the people here love it, but it’s something that you kind of take for granted.”

However, both Thais Garcia and DeSisso said they found it hard to make their rooms feel like more than just a temporary living space.

“I think it looks pretty homey now that I’ve done my own [decorating] but it still definitely is a hotel room,” Thais Garcia said.

Similarly, DeSisso believes that it’s hard to make his room feel like a comfortable space compared to his friends’ dorm rooms.

“It doesn’t feel necessarily like a dorm room,” DeSisso said. “I don’t share that same [homey feeling]. Even when I go to my friends’ [rooms] that are much smaller I still feel like, ‘I would switch places with you,’ and for some reason they’re like ‘oh, you know, king sized bed blah blah, have you seen your room?’… Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing room, but it just doesn’t have that same ‘I’m in college’ dorm room feeling.”

Even though the Inn is being used as a residence hall, some guests are still only there temporarily: 18 rooms at the Inn are being used to quarantine students who test positive for COVID-19. Some residents, including Daisy Garcia ’24, raised concerns about living in such close quarters to positive cases.

“We didn’t even know that [there were people quarantining],” Daisy Garcia said. “They didn’t tell us…It’s scary because we’re regular residents. It’s being treated as another residence hall, but you’re sending the biggest problem on campus to a residence hall. There’s definitely a flaw with that.”

Thais Garcia found it concerning that the quarantined students are distributed throughout the building instead of confined to a specific floor or hallway.

“They distributed the quarantine patients through the floors where other people are living who aren’t quarantining, which is dangerous and kind of irresponsible in my opinion just because I have no idea who my neighbor is right now…” Thais Garcia said. “I know they’re not supposed to go out, but there’s central heating and central AC and COVID has been proven to be able to spread through vents and stuff so I’m a little worried about that.”

Medical Director Dr. Tom McLarney offered his reassurance that students living in the Inn are safe. He explained that the past year and a half has provided medical professionals with sufficient data to be able to conclude that transmission among neighbors in the same building is highly unlikely. 

“Students who are identified as a [COVID-19] case are placed in isolation,” McLarney wrote in an email to The Argus. “They do not socialize with others while in isolation. They do not share a bathroom with others and therefore put no one else at risk of being a close contact. The risk of transmission in these scenarios is nil.”  

As an RA, DeSisso believes that having students quarantining in the same halls as student living adds more responsibility to follow COVID-19 guidelines and ensure that his residents follow them too.

“I think that adds a layer of responsibility for the RAs,” DeSisso said. “Now that we have people living here and then we have people who have COVID symptoms or have COVID here, I think we try our hardest to keep the two lives separate…But I will say that people are wary of it. They know that that’s a thing so it just makes it more important to wear a mask and navigate that space.”

Outside of their rooms, students also find the distance from campus to be an adjustment. Living downhill on Main Street, a 15-minute walk from the Usdan University Center means that students have a mini-commute to campus. Luckily, there’s a shuttle that runs weekday mornings and evenings, and students can access the RIDE every night. Despite this, some students at the Inn found that this shuttle service hasn’t run very smoothly.

“The shuttle at the beginning was unreliable,” Thais Garcia said. “I would call and they would send me to voicemail and I would just walk so I was late to class a few times because of that just because it’s a 15 minute walk versus a two minute drive. But I think it’s stabilized really well.”

Daisy Garcia, however, continues to have issues contacting the shuttle.

“Sometimes there is a shuttle there but it’s not always there and there’s also not an exact time schedule, so you can’t always take it,” Daisy Garcia said. “There’s also a couple of times where the Ride, even on weekend night or weekday nights, they just don’t answer [our calls]. We don’t want to make the walk, especially at night, but they’re also not answering. Then if we call PSafe they say just wait, there’s nothing we can do.”

Melanie Garcia ’24 has also had trouble contacting the Ride.

“I have also called Public Safety [and] I was like, ‘Hey I’ve been trying to call the shuttle,’ –this is on the weekends by the way–and nobody is picking up,” Melanie Garcia said. “And they’re just like ‘call again, call again.’”

Director of Public Safety Scott Rohde responded to these concerns, highlighting that PSafe does not escort students around campus and that students should wait for the shuttle if they need it. 

“Public Safety officers are not a backup to routine shuttle services, however we do provide backup services for students who have mobility issues or are encountering unsafe situations,” Rohde wrote in an email to The Argus. “Students should plan ahead and engage the shuttle service to meet their needs. That may include building in wait times.” 

Rohde also noted that an additional shuttle vehicle has been added to mitigate wait times during the day.

Outside of safety, students had issues with the simple inconvenience of the shuttle, especially when it comes to doing laundry. Because there is no laundry offered in the Inn, residents were assigned to the campus laundry facility on Vine Street, which is about a 20-minute walk. Students without transportation have found other ways to get their laundry done, including using the facility in High Rise which is only a 5-minute walk from the Inn.

Daisy Garcia and her roommate Luz Elena Angeles Saldana ’24 said they have a friend scan them into the High Rise laundry room.

“Last time we had to [do laundry] we actually went to High Rise because I had a friend there and she let us in, but it was so stressful,” Angeles Saldana said. “We called the Ride and no one answered and we waited for like 30 minutes and no one came so we had to walk with the laundry bags all the way to High Rise.”

Thais Garcia contacted ResLife to get access to High Rise.

“There’s absolutely no way I am going to Vine,” Thais Garcia said. “So I emailed ResLife and was like, ‘Hey, let me do it at High Rise, please,’ since that’s what makes the most sense because it’s literally right there. They had no problem with that so I can swipe into the first door and into the laundry room.”

While the shuttle and laundry pose difficulties for Inn residents, they are not unsolvable issues. The Student Life Committee (SLC) of the Wesleyan Student Assembly (WSA) formed an Inn Taskforce, which has met with several residents of the Inn and is working with appropriate members of the administration to address the problems that students have raised.

One aspect of life at the Inn that is harder to address is the social impact of its distance from campus.

“Something as simple as going to visit a friend is so much harder,” Daisy Garcia said. “If you’re on campus you can just say, ‘Hey, you want to come over?’ and they’ll be there in five minutes but now I’m like yeah, I’ll be there in 20 minutes which is really hard.”

Melanie Garcia has taken advantage of the Inn’s location to explore Main Street but said that the proximity to stores hasn’t helped her feel more connected to campus.

“If I’m going to be completely honest, it does force me to know more about downtown because the bookstore is there, they have restaurants there,” Melanie Garcia said. “But I have noticed that I feel that the people that live at the Inn feel isolated. It’s kind of awkward… I feel that it also makes it more difficult to be part of campus and the community.”

DeSisso hopes that throughout the semester, students in the Inn can still build some kind of community amongst themselves.

“I always say you gotta make the most of it. This has been a new experience for everybody [so] I want to make it as enjoyable as possible…” DeSisso said. “I know we’re off campus but we can still kind of have some community.” 

On Monday, Oct. 5, ResLife sent an email to students currently living in the Inn to announce that the Inn would not be used for housing in the spring semester. According to the email, the housing assignment process for students that currently live at the Inn has not been finalized.

“Additional information regarding [Spring 2022] housing and transitioning [Inn residents] back to traditional student housing will be sent out later this month,” Islieb wrote. “ There are still many details to be worked out. We will be consulting with the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee to ensure a smooth transition.”

Daisy Garcia and Angeles Saldana are excited to live on campus again.

“We were thinking in general we don’t want to live here anymore,” Angeles Saldana said. “When it comes to the distance it’s going to be an advantage to be closer to campus and not have to rely on the shuttle anymore, especially with the weather [now that it’s] getting colder.”

The two also have concerns about the lack of information about the housing assignment process for the spring.

“I hope that with us they have more communication about what’s gonna happen and that it’s not last minute or anything,” Daisy Garcia said. “I’m just hoping they have better communication because as of right now we don’t have anything. I don’t think anybody knows anything [about housing assignments] so I hope that as soon as they find out things they talk to us too.”

DeSisso expressed concerns about his job as an RA going forward. 

“If this was just a semester, what does it mean for me as an RA?” DeSisso said. “Do I go to RA somewhere else? Do I not have an RA job [anymore]? I don’t know what’s next for me, so my future is kind of confusing for me.”

Amid all this uncertainty, one thing is for sure: students living in the Inn have a truly unique experience. 

Olivia Ramseur can be reached at oramseur@wesleyan.edu.

Nora Knoepflmacher can be reached at nknoepflmach@wesleyan.edu 

Olivia Sharenow can be reached at osharenow@wesleyan.edu.

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