College to house undergrads at Bread Loaf
RIPTON — For the first time in its history Middlebury College will house undergraduate students at its Bread Loaf campus during the regular school year.
“We will have a larger than usual student body this fall — about 2,800 students — and opening the Bread Loaf campus for residential housing and some classes is part of our planning process,” said Director of Media Relations Sarah Ray in an email to the Independent.
Middlebury typically enrolls about 2,500 students each year, but the college received a record number of applications last winter, nearly 12,000.
In addition to hosting additional students the college is also managing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This includes accommodating students who opted for leaves of absence (or) whose study abroad programs were canceled,” the college explained on its website. “We are committed to allowing students who wish to return to campus to do so. Last year we offered students the choice of studying remotely, attending in-person, or to defer for a semester or year and now we do not want any student to have to further interrupt their Middlebury education.”
About 90 juniors and seniors, plus three residential staff, will live up at Bread Loaf this year, Ray said.
The college will offer dining services on the mountain, and regular shuttles will transport students to and from the Middlebury campus.
Some courses may also be offered at the Bread Loaf campus.
“We believe this will be an attractive option for some who wish to have a different kind of residential experience in the upcoming year,” college officials said.
Bread Loaf undergrads will receive a $1,500 discount on room and board for each semester of residence on the mountain, plus season ski passes for the Rikert Nordic Center and the Middlebury College Snow Bowl.
Students who applied for rooms at Bread Loaf will receive their housing assignments later this week.
Clark Devoto, a rising junior who enthusiastically applied to live at Bread Loaf, said that “while it may be inconvenient for some, for others – myself included – I think this could be a really enjoyable option.”
With its iconic yellow and green buildings the campus is most often associated with Middlebury’s summer programs — the Bread Loaf School of English and the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference — as well as the Rikert Nordic Ski Center.
Middlebury considered using Bread Loaf for undergrad housing once before, in 1883, when the college became co-ed, but decided against it.
The campus’s main building, the Bread Loaf Inn, was fully renovated in 2015.
At this time Middlebury does not plan to use the Bread Loaf campus for undergrad housing in 2022-23, Ray said.
The college has also reserved a number of hotel rooms in town, which it plans to use as residential housing.
Noah Hochfelder practically fell off his chair when he read the College’s housing update email last Thursday. Hochfelder, a rising senior Feb, said he was “shocked” at the announcement that the Bread Loaf campus would open for limited junior/senior housing this year.
“I don’t think I realized that the school was so pressed for housing options,” Hochfelder said. Fresh off a gap semester, he found the prospect of living at Bread Loaf alluring, but ultimately decided not to fill out the survey required to apply.
“I’ve felt socially isolated this year; so much of COVID has been about manipulating logistics to be socially safe, and if I were to be a student at Bread Loaf right now, I would have to continue to be really mindful of logistics. I just don’t have the energy for that right now,” Hochfelder said.
Neither does rising senior Anna Wood.
“I like being within walking distance of everything, plus I’m involved in extracurriculars that sometimes meet pretty late,” she said. Wood added that she’s worried about the incentivization of the Bread Loaf option.
“The issue with making room and board cheaper is that it will entice students who are worried about money, and that could create a literally geographic class issue,” Wood said.
Students also worried about feeling isolated.
“If we knew there would be a shuttle on the clock every thirty minutes it might be different, but as is, I’m hesitant,” said senior Feb Drew An-Pham.
Lilly Kady, a junior, said that it felt hard to seriously consider without a car.
“I would want to have a bit more independence,” she said.
The 20-minute drive separating Bread Loaf from the main campus seems to be the largest drawback…but for some it’s the largest draw.
“The distance is part of the appeal,” Devoto said. He expects it to be a trade-off, but said he’s willing to work with it, especially for the opportunity to be up in the mountains.
“Bread Loaf is a part of Middlebury so many of us don’t really get to take advantage of…I think this is a great solution to having a larger incoming student body this semester,” Devoto said.
Hochfelder, who attended a writing conference at Bread Loaf when he was 16, agreed that Bread Loaf is an “often unexplored, incredibly special part of the college.” He added that he would like to see the school follow through with the mission of what is being called Bread Loaf Campus Intentional Community.
“It’d be awesome if it could become less a place where students are thrown and more a space that has some different resonance,” he said.
“We get to be right smack in the middle of this incredible outdoor space,” Kady said.
While Bread Loaf may be a temporary option for undergraduate housing, autumn is not a bad time to take advantage of it.
“To be up there in the fall with the leaves changing would be amazing,” Devoto said.
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