Belmont and many other universities have stopped using the word “dorm.” University staff now use the term “residence hall” in brochures, on websites and when speaking to students.
“It’s easier to have a negative connotation of ‘dorm’ than ‘residence hall,’” Abigail Rodriguez, residence director for Heron Hall, said.
Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life Anthony Donovan said this change in terminology has actually been prevalent throughout all universities for the last 30 years, but “dorm” is more frequently used in conversation and in the media, so most people don’t realize that it’s out of date.
“For me it’s a difference between colloquialism and professional speech,” Residence Assistant Samantha Hubner said.
She might tell her friends that she’ll meet them at the “dorm,” but on resumes, she might list that she is an RA in Heron “Residence Hall.”
“TV and films continue to call it ‘dorms,’ and that’s really tough,” Donovan said.
Rodriguez also says that “dorm” is often a term used by mental institutions and archaic medical institutions and that “residence hall” is a more welcoming term, especially for those nervous about moving in.
“The implication is that all we do is provide a place for them to sleep,” Donovan said.
Rodriguez and Donovan, however, argue that students do so much more than sleep in their halls.
“Student affairs is trying to move away from ‘residence hall’ being a place where you live, but also a place where you learn,” Rodriguez said. “You’re not just learning academically, you’re personally learning.”
Rodriguez said students gain communication, independence, time management and an understanding of their values in the residence hall.
Hubner agrees. Part of her job as an RA is to create programming that teaches her residents about learning opportunities and life skills. Bulletin boards, posters and programming organized by the RAs must be educational.
“I think two-thirds of the best things that happen in college happen outside of the classroom,” Donovan said. “I would say that most of them happen in the residence hall.”
Donovan said that the term “dorm” isn’t necessarily offensive to students but to people in his profession. Most of all, he cares about the experience of the student.
“I care more about what people think than the word they use,” he said.
This story was written by Sarah Everett.