Hotel Story

by Vanessa Smith

Students across the nation are schlepping their box fans and mattress pads into their dorms in the last week of August, but some VWC students were toting their possessions through a hotel lobby. Off and on for the past 12 years, VWC has made some students unpack their belongings down the road at the Lake Wright Hotel. This year, however, the college moved some students even farther down the road, to the Comfort Inn Hotel. The number of students living in the hotels is up 40 percent from last year.
In the past, the majority of the students housed at the hotel were freshmen who didn’t make their down payments in time to get on-campus housing. The current situation is unprecedented: almost half of the students at the hotels are upperclassmen. Several of them requested to be housed there.
“I prefer the hotel over living on campus,” said junior Chris Worrell. “I spend most of my time on campus hanging out with friends. However, I could see myself spending all of my time at the hotel if I wasn’t active. It’s nice to come back from campus and have the privileges of a hotel room over a dorm room. I would not recommend the hotel to any sophomores or freshmen seeing as it might be harder to make friends throughout [their] college life.”
According to Ethan Fields, the community coordinator at the Comfort Inn, the hotel has many benefits. “The facility that houses the Northampton community is excellent. In my opinion, the accommodations are fantastic, and the rooms are well taken care of. The breakfast is delicious, there’s 24-hour coffee, tea and hot chocolate in the lobby, a small indoor pool, a large activity/conference room, a small fitness center, and a warm building staff that care about the VWC students just as they do any other guest that may stay there.”
Being a Resident Assistant at the hotel has its perks as well. Senior Nathan Johnson was asked about the differences between being an R.A. on campus and being an R.A. at the hotel.
“Being an R.A. is different because you have a mix of students,” said Johnson. “ Most R.A.’s have just boys or just girls on a floor, but at the hotel we have both on each floor, making it our job to find ways in which they connect and bond as a community. The students have to become very independent much faster than most freshmen, with finding their way to campus when they miss the shuttle and planning accordingly. It’s still similar, as in we have duty nights and certain tasks during the week to complete. On a much more positive note, the hotel seems to feel like a getaway from school life. Having the different amenities and hotel services makes the stay that much more enjoyable. Also, we are literally four minutes’ walking distance from different places like Starbucks, Sakura, Krispy Kreme, Jersey Mike’s and more.”
A shuttle bus runs between the hotel and campus from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and from 7:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Friday through Sunday. It makes trips approximately every 15 to 30 minutes.
Sophomore Collette Vauthier said, “[The shuttle service was] accommodating when I had to work at the Batten Center at 6:30 a.m., and because I am a sophomore I was able to find rides from friends back to the hotel in the evenings. I have seen people wait half an hour for a shuttle, or want a shuttle on the weekends for a shuttle to take them to campus, and it is not available.”
The shuttle service is also now offering Walmart runs for students every Sunday at 1 p.m.
Living at the hotel has some negatives, however. Sophomore Kendric Washington does not enjoy having to drive back and forth between the hotel and campus every day, nor does he enjoy paying to do his laundry. For now, the hotel is merely a place to stay until more campus housing opens up.
The dilemma of having to house students at the hotel is in the process of being solved, since the number of residents has greatly increased over the past four years, confirms David Buckingham, vice president for students affairs and dean of enrollment.
“There are four options underway in discussion: continuing housing students at the hotel when rooms on campus run out; looking at the number of freshman residents and reserve that number of beds for incoming freshman and the rest for upperclassmen; make an incentive for residents who live in the area and could commute; or lastly, add onto Village 4” said Buckingham. “Over 25 percent of residents each year for the past four years live in the Hampton Roads area and have a possibility to commute, but most of those students would argue they want the college experience of residing on campus. Of course, these are all just ideas being explored and nothing is set in stone for the future of housing here at VWC.”