North Hall: community living off-campus

Hadley Jolley

Photo Credit : Bowman

North Hall, located on Estrella Ave., past the fraternity houses and several residential houses, is one of Whitman’s lesser-known residence halls. The blue light security system and long lines of bike parking proclaim its status as a Whitman building. However, above the painted North Hall sign lies an engraved reminder of the building’s past as the Walla Walla Valley General Hospital.

Whitman purchased the hospital in 1978, after it had been replaced by another hospital, when the enrollment of a large class required more housing, according Nancy Tavelli, associate dean of students and director of Residence Life. A similar event occurred in fall 2008, when a large incoming class motivated the creation of a first-year section in North.

Today, North Hall is a cross between on- and off-campus living. It lies in a residential neighborhood, not directly on campus, giving it the potential to be isolating.

“I was a little bit afraid [to live in North] because I felt like it would be harder to integrate myself with the Whitman community because, (a), we’re off campus, and (b), there’s not a lot of us,” said Shane Young, a first-year North Hall resident.

However, Young believes that there is a strong community among the second floor of North Hall residents, who are all either first-year or transfer students.

Currently, there are many empty rooms in North Hall, and many of the rooms consist of singles with attached bathrooms or sinks due to the hall’s history as a hospital. The result is that North Hall is much less dense, population-wise, than the other halls. Young claims that this makes North Hall a good choice for students who like a lot of space and privacy.

“I feel like if Whitman puts you in North, they put you there for a reason. I feel we definitely have something in common in that we’re much lower key than other halls,” said Young.

North Hall straddles the line between on-campus dorm living and off-campus housing because it has fewer people: and more space: than most residence halls, but more people than a rented house.

The neighborhood around North Hall also has a residential feel, segregating it less from Walla Walla than other residence halls.

“When you are on campus all the time, you gain a perspective that’s only in that little area,” said sophomore Mazie Ashe, the RA for the second floor of North.

However, North isn’t that far off campus: although neither are many houses rented by Whitman students. In fact, one of the houses closest to North Hall is a home rented by Whitman students, according to Anjuli Martin, the resident director of North.

“There’s a walk to class, but it will take you five minutes to get to Olin, the same as it would from Anderson,” said Ashe.

Unlike a rental home, however, North Hall has the organization of a residential hall, with its own listserv and residence life staff, which keep North Hall residents more connected to events on campus than their off-campus neighbors.

“We still have the bulletin boards that tell them what’s going on campus.We still have the listservs that we send out e-mails about all the different events going on on campus. They still have that resource there that people living off-campus don’t necessarily have. They have to search it out more than people who are living in a residence hall,” said Martin, who lived off-campus for part of her time at Whitman.

One thing North Hall residents are two blocks away from is food: North has no dining hall of its own. The closest is in Jewett, while Prentiss and Reid dining are farther still. No other residence hall is as far away from a dining facility. That’s likely why many North Hall residents cook for themselves, according to Martin, like in an off-campus house. However, North Hall residents are still required to be on a meal plan, like most others who live in residential halls. Although it may combine many of the perks of both on and off-campus life, when it comes to food options, North Hall does not offer the same freedom.

Overall, North Hall is a good choice for those who want the quiet of living off-campus, the privacy of a single or just more space than in an average dorm. However, it is a residence hall, with all the structure and restrictions that entails.