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Living in America’s Second Worst Dorm According to the New York Times: Quadrangle Hall

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Iowa chapter.

“Oh my God, it looks like “The Shining” in here.”

This was my mom’s first reaction upon us sneaking into Quadrangle Hall over my orientation weekend to preview where I’d be living for the next nine months. I had to agree with her: the outdated, musty furniture, dusty baby grand piano in the corner and foggy mirrors on the wall was much less than the collegiate elegance I was expecting from the almost 100-year-old building, and much more like a horror movie.

“It smells like old people in here,” my mom remarked after wandering through the rest of the lounge, the defunct ITC, and discovering an ancient locked door to an old dining hall. “I bet if we were actually on the tour right now, they’d never show us this place.”

Coincidentally, the New York Times echoed my mom’s statement exactly in an article published that very week, titled “Dorms You’ll Never See on the Campus Tour.” Quadrangle Hall was number two on the list.

It is true that Quad is often overlooked or purposely ignored by campus tour guides, but back in the day, Quad was the campus’ crown jewel. After being renovated from army barracks, Quad stood as a self-contained society on campus. Quad was the home of a barbershop, a full dining hall, an upscale formal lounge, tennis courts, a post office, a literary society, the best dance floor in town and the students with the highest GPAs on campus.

Then, a fire and natural deterioration took half of the quadrangle building structure, exposing the courtyard and leaving only three of the four towers of Quad. The age of the building began to show in its cracked brick façade and yellowing walls, and students compounded the damage with vandalism and carelessness, acting on a years-old rumor that Quad would soon be demolished. Slowly, Quad faded into the decrepit state it is in today.

Lexi Hicok, a freshman resident of Quad, says of her experience living there, “You never know what is going to happen. The water heater seems to break every other week. I’ve gotten used to the daily screams of the girls on my floor when they see cockroaches crawling around their room. I’ve heard stories of girls coming back from winter break only to find that their room flooded after their water pipes exploded. Paint is always falling off the walls, and only half the outlets work. My radiator is so old its groans wake me up every night.”

Allison Kloppenborg, a senator on the executive board of Quad, describes similar unpleasant experiences. “Quad is most likely the least glamorous dorm on campus,” she says. “That I can’t deny, with its bug infestation, poor water pressure, creaky floors, many secretive locked rooms and pungent fumes.”

Given these complaints, it’s no wonder campus tour guides might overlook or purposely ignore Quad. Quad is, after all, only the squat, two-story, 100-year old former army barracks behind the new $53 million dollar high-rise, Petersen Hall. Why showcase the cockroaches and leaky plumbing of Quad when the dorm across the parking lot has an actual waterfall in the lobby? Maybe it’s better that the dirty little secrets of Quad stay secret.

Although Quad may be kept off the radar of potential students, the 358 students living in Quad have accepted its many quirks.

Carrie Allen, a freshman resident of Quad, says, “Even though the hallways smell like pee, and the bathrooms are gross, the people I live around make up for it.”

Meg Ruocco, another freshman living in Quad, agrees. “Although it’s really old,” she says, “it’s a great place to live. There’s so much room in every dorm, it’s close to places to eat, and I don’t really encounter bugs any more than the average student who is living in a college dorm that’s more than ten years old. It’s a cozy and nice place to be.”

As the New York Times article mentions, the residents of Quad bond over “the camaraderie born of mutual suffering.” HAWQ, the executive board of the dorm, have organized events like a pre-finals donut breakfast and a Superbowl party that have attracted over half of the residents of the building, proving Quad has inspired a loyalty in its (un)lucky residents.

“Quad is a tight-knit community,” HAWQ senator Allison Kloppenborg continues, “one that I’m glad to be a part of and if I could, I would chose to live here again. #QuadSquad”

I am a Journalism student at the University of Iowa. I'm from Chicago originally, so obviously I'm a pizza snob. My goal in life is to be Tina Fey, or at least her and Amy Poehler's third musketeer.
U Iowa chapter of the nation's #1 online magazine for college women.