Since opening its doors in 1966, Brumby Hall has been the largest single-sex dorm on UGA’s campus, a haven for young women who might not be as comfortable living in the same building as a gaggle of strange young men.
This year, however, the housing department has made a rather radical change — for the first time in Brumby’s nearly 50-year history, the dorm will open three of its nine floors to freshman boys, giving the building the same distribution as fellow high-rises Russell and Creswell.
“We had a building that was simply larger than our demand for single-sex housing,” said Gerry Kowalski, executive director for UGA's housing Department. “The building was built in the 1960s, and it was just a different kind of culture back then ... we felt that it was time to make that changeover.”
The department decision to reverse the long-standing protocol was based in two reasons — a significant decrease in the requests by freshmen women for single-sex housing and an increase in requests by all freshmen for spots in high-rise dorms.
Less than 300 incoming women requested single-sex housing, while almost half of freshmen requested a spot in Creswell or Russell. In addition to keeping longstanding single-sex dorm Church, UGA Housing converted Hill Community dorms Mell and Lipscomb to single-sex freshman housing. With space for nearly 500 students between them, the three halls should be more than adequate to meet single-sex demands.
“We’re always in touch with, and keep track of, the data that supports freshman requests ... we’ve trended so far downward in the past few years that it didn’t make a lot of sense to hold a 900-bed residence hall for less that 300 students,” Kowalski said. “We wanted to be able to meet student preferences ... when we made three floors of Brumby male, the requests for Brumby went up to the same level or even higher as the other two.”
While there have always been more women than men attending the University, a roughly 60 percent to 40 percent ratio, the dorms have generally been created to accommodate both sexes. Very few adjustments were required in Brumby to suit the incoming male population.
One major change was raising the Brumby showerheads above their previous 5-foot height, a longtime request by the taller members of the Brumby community. This change should allow young men to shower without breaking their backs — though some believe it should have changed a long time ago.
“Why didn’t the shower heads get raised 30 years ago? It’s about time,” former Brumby resident Liza Gershen, a senior from Charlotte, N.C. majoring in social work, said. “Some girls are just as tall, if not taller, than some boys. Girls are not five feet tall. The shower heads were five feet tall.”
The influx of young men caused some consternation with former Brumby residents. Some hope to see a fostering of goodwill between the residents, but others are more suspicious.
“I’m wondering what boys are choosing to live in Brumby,” Gershen said. “Either they have never heard before that it was historically an all-girls dorm, or they know, and they are smart. Typically, Brumby is filled with sorority girls.”
That reputation for sorority life is one of the biggest points of trepidation for new residents, many of whom assume living in Brumby will mean being surrounded by girls intent on living the sorority lifestyle. However, UGA Housing is quick to assuage those concerns.
“Like lots of other stereotypes or perspectives on campus, this one isn’t necessarily based in fact,” Kowalski said. “The women who register for rush are spread out all over campus ... when the activities are over, there’s a lot of women walking up the sidewalk.”
It’s possible the visibility of the sorority groups is the main reason for Brumby’s reputation, but Kowalski said he doesn’t believe the majority of Brumby residents actually desire to join any Greek societies.
“When you’ve got 1,000 women and 40 to 45 percent are participating in new member recruitment, there’s still 60 to 65 percent that aren’t ... the data indicates that it really isn’t a sorority hall,” Kowalski said.
While there are plenty of changes on the way for the student housing community, the staff and support teams are well-prepared to accommodate the changing demands of the freshman community for many years to come.
“The early reports from staff and students I’ve spoken to have been very positive,” Kowalski said. “It’s going to be a historic year.”