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Good things come in threes

Split a large double dorm room in half, and you get about 120 square feet per student, bed, desk, and chair. Add a third occupant, and you’re down to 80 square feet.

That happened a lot this past fall, when the last freshmen to send in their enrollment deposits had to be squeezed into forty-four triple rooms for their first semester. To ease incoming threebies through the crunch, the college issued six-outlet power strips—and some prudent advice: “If you reach campus first and pick the best bed, take the smaller desk or closet,” suggested Ann Marie Pryzwara ’96, assistant director of residential life. Pryzwara and staff also threw festive “Triplemania” events featuring hayrides, chair massages, s’mores, and dinners with faculty speakers. (“None of you are overcrowded,” psychology professor Sheldon Solomon declared. “Fifty people crossing an ocean in a boat made for fifteen—that’s overcrowded!”)

Most freshmen take remarkably well to tripledom. “After the first nights on campus, we’d hear, ‘We’re gonna live together forever!’” says Pryzwara. Three weeks later is when the glaring problems arise. “Many kids have not lived with someone before and don’t know what will bother them…until something does,” says Kristin Dascher, one of the college’s three professional residence-hall directors.

Head residents are trained to query roommates: “How are things?” Pause. “How are things really?” And they encourage “roommate contracts” to clarify preferences about flash-point issues like noise, lights-out, housekeeping, privacy, and borrowing. Still, antipathies can be instantaneous and ugly. Says Dascher, “We advise them to be courteous, don’t slam the door, preserve basic civility until we can move someone out.” Triples automatically get first priority for room changes.

Many tripled students soon learn the fine art of accommodation. Early-to-bed types Sarah Grime and Michelle Horwitz learned to leave a light on, so night-owl roomie Morgan Levey “wouldn’t trip and crash over things in the dark.” Grateful to be “detripled” last February, they’re still good friends.

Others stick tight even when offered the chance to detriple, like Matt Kramer, Andy Kahn, and Dan Washko. “We’re radically different,” Washko says, “but we’re all easy to get along with.” So easy that musicians Kahn and Washko practiced their two guitars, keyboard, and synthesizers right inside their packed room—and everyone stayed best friends. “If something bothers us, we talk about it right away,” says Washko. In Grime’s case, “We were polite at first, because we didn’t know each other,” she admits candidly. “Then we fought. We yelled.” But, adds Horwitz, “we got it all out there”—the magic words for success in a triple. They also learned such coping skills as: take a walk when tensions mount, invest in earplugs and iPods, ignore each other’s alarm clocks, and never eat your roommate’s last cookie. “Nothing very major,” grins Kramer. “Just part of the college experience,” Grime shrugs. —BAM