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Dormitories: At U. of Colorado, a Residential College; at Tufts U., Getting Fancier

Old dormitories at the University of Colorado at Boulder are getting a $13-million facelift, as the university moves to a residential-college model, with professors and students living side by side, reports the Daily Camera. The dormitories will feature smart classrooms, so students can sit in courses within their living areas. And the buildings will have technology that controls the heating and cooling in the building, sensing when a window is cracked open.

People at the university believe that the new living arrangements will encourage the sort of serendipitous encounters between professor and student that lead to engaging discussion and learning. The residences will house honors students, and one professor said that he was excited about raising his children around college kids, in an atmosphere where “it’s cool to be nerdy and smart.”

From a sustainability perspective, the strategy also helps to cut down on the carbon footprint of a campus by obviating the need to commute. Transportation and commuting can be among the highest generators of greenhouse gases among all of a college’s activities.

Meanwhile, in other dormitory news, students at Tufts University have outlined their complaints about residences there in a 12-page report. Among the grievances, according to The Boston Globe: “dormitory common rooms are dreary spaces with carpets that ‘clash with furniture,’ couches that are ‘haphazardly arranged,’ and lighting that does not ‘work with the mood of the room.’ Don’t get them started on the window dressings.”

The Globe story gets into the well-worn territory of student coddling and luxury residences — and the downsides of these plush living spaces. Some of the best analysis of this issue can be found in a Chronicle Review interview with Susan Painter, of the firm A.C. Martin, and in an editorial from The Providence Journal by Jonathan Zimmerman — which, incidentally, mentions Tufts. —Scott Carlson

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