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Introduction

7 letters, 2 syllables, 1 word: vibrant.  That is the word best used to describe the 4th floor of Koury Hall, which is pictured above. It was loud but not overly so with an energy that could’ve lit the floor without the use of the ceiling lights.  There were students laughing and talking, some sitting while others stood.  Where such socialization took place varied; some mingled in the comfort of their own rooms with doors propped open, when others found comfort in one of three lounges on the floor.  Several students simply chose to be in the center of it all by having a seat in the hallway and leaning against the walls.  Conversations were tagged with topics about classes, exams, cute guys, and Thanksgiving Break among a plethora of other things, and the most satisfying part was that while there were specific friend groups with which people associated, there was still an overarching ambience of togetherness.  This it’s like living life as a resident of the 4th floor “penthouse” of Koury.

While it was rewarding to be able to observe such a well-acquainted and vivacious atmosphere, what I witnessed helped formulate the question of why this floor, the 4th floor, of Koury seemed to be so much more social than other floors in the building? As a resident of the 3rd floor, I can attest to the fact that not all floors in Koury have as much of a community feel as the 4th; students living on 3rd often hang out only behind closed doors and typically have less friends that reside on the floor.  While other floors in Koury seem to be simply residential areas, the 4th floor is more of a community.  This difference in acquaintance level is due mostly in part to students making any area on the floor a social gathering area, students’ being willing to make acquaintance with new people, students’ isolating themselves from people outside of their dorms.

Methods

I sat on the 4th floor of Koury, once in the hallway and twice in the lounge, at two different times of day to observe an analyze the culture of the floor.  The first time I observed a lounge only 2 people were present and thus I decided that another observation was necessary in order to fairly grasp the culture of the floor.  The subsequent observations occurred between the hours of 7:00 p.m. and 11:00 p.m. with each observation lasting between 30 and 45 minutes.  In order to not taint the authenticity of the study, I quietly entered the lounges and took my sit in the hallway and subsequently opened my laptop to make it appear as if I was just another resident doing homework.  I observed what residents did, where they hung out, and what they talked about.  Following my observations, I informally interviewed 4 students who lived on the 4th floor.[i] Those interviewed were chosen at random and were asked questions in an attempt to have an understanding of the perception of the 4th floor from a resident’s perspective.

Discussion/Interpretation

Social Gathering Areas

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Students living on the fourth floor of Koury view any open space on the floor as a potential place for meeting and socializing.  While other floors may confine their interactions to areas behind closed doors, fourth floor residents do not share the same mindset.  Students hang out not only in rooms and in floor lounges, but often simply sit in the hallways and hold conversations as can be imagined from the picture above.  One fourth floor resident reiterated that while residents often go to lounges to mingle and conversate, in her experience, “A lot of times we’ll just sit in the hallway and talk” (personal communications, Nov. 1, 2016).  Brandon (2008) argued that, “A hall with multiple social gathering spaces might encourage students to interact more with one another than would one that has few common areas.”  By making any area, whether it be dorm rooms, floor lounges, or hallways, a social gathering space, the 4th floor of Koury has a higher gathering space total than what is average for the dorm which contributes to the increased socialization and thus greater community feel.

Willingness to Make Acquaintance

Residents of Koury fourth floor exhibit an interest to make acquaintance with new people.  When conducting my interviews, I knocked on the first door that I got to and upon asking if I could interview her, she welcomed me into her room and not only answered my questions but expressed interest in who I was.  Upon entering the room I realized that she had several friends over who also offered to help with my assignment by answering interview questions.  However, they didn’t simply strictly answer the questions.  They asked what my name was, what floor I lived on, what kind of classes I was taking, and proceeded to offer some of their own answers to their questions; they expressed a genuine interest in who I was as a person.  Though a friendship was not to necessarily come out of the situation, they had no problem becoming acquainted with a person they had never met before.  This is not uncommon for fourth floor residents.

When on the fourth floor, people would often offer me greetings and some even asked my name since they had not seen me on the floor before.  When asked if they, when walking past a person, would speak to that person if they knew their name but had yet to officially meet, 4 out of 4 fourth floor residents interviewed responded “Yes” (personal communications, Nov. 1, 2016).  This general consensus that attempting to meet new people speaks to the idea that it is the fourth floor residents’ willingness to make new acquaintances that allows them to be more of a community.

Student Isolationism

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Student resident life on the fourth floor of Koury embraces a closeness that other floors within the dorm do not possess because, whether on purpose or accidental, isolate themselves from not only other students within the building but from students all over the UNC campus.  When asked if she ever hung out with other fourth floor residents, one student responded, “Yes, that’s basically my only friends.” Like this resident, many students on the fourth floor limit their friend selection to other students living on their floor and thus grow closer with their floor mates as a whole which differs from students on other floors whose friend pool consists of students living in other dorms.

Hill (1996) described such seclusion as “self-segregation”.  By having themed college dorms that house students that all share a common and distinctive collegiate characteristic, such as being an honors student, such students segregate themselves from the rest of the student population and tend to become close only with those that live in their hall (Rinn, 2004). From what I have observed, the idea of self-segregation is relevant exclusively to the 4th floor of Koury and explains why it is this floor that relays more of a community feel than any of the other floors in Koury.

Conclusion

The fourth floor of Koury, nicknamed “The Penthouse”, exhibits a more community feel than other floors in the dorm; a fourth floor resident described it to be a “family” (personal communications, Nov. 1, 2016).  This is due to students not being confined to areas specified for social gatherings and a willingness of fourth floor residents to meet new people.  It is the closeness of floor residents that contributes to the students’ greater social adjusting and more positive college experience.  However, a question comes to mind of why all floors in Koury do not exhibit the same togetherness as the fourth floor does? Why all floors of all dorms do not exhibit such a community feel as Koury fourth floor does.  Such findings would allow for universities to better assist in a new student’s social adjustment.

 

 

 

Works Cited

Brandon, A. f, Hirt, J. B., & Cameron, T. (2008). Where You Live Influences Who You Know: Differences in Student Interaction Based on Residence Hall Design. Journal of College & University Student Housing, 35(2), 62–79.   

Rinn, A. N. (2004). Academic and Social Effects of Living in Honors Residence Halls. Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council, 67–79.

 

 

[i] Interview Questions

  1. If you could use only 1 word to describe this floor, what would it be?
  2. On a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the most quiet and 5 being the most loud, at what noise level do you believe your floor to be at most of the time?
  3. Do people on your floor, yourself included, ever prop their doors open?
  4. Do people on your floor, yourself included, ever mingle or conversate in the hallways or lounges?
  5. Do you ever hang out with people that live on your floor outside of the dorm?
  6. How many people that live on the fourth floor would you consider to be your friends?
  7. Of the total number of people on your floor, about how many of them do you know the names of?
  8. If you walked past someone that lives on your floor that you had not officially met but you knew their name, would you speak to them?
  9. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the least satisfied and 10 being the most satisfied, how satisfied are you living on this floor of the building?
  10. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the not adjusted at all and 10 being very well adjusted, how socially adjusted do you feel here at Chapel Hill?

 

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