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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Grad gets a long overdue face-lift

Published: February 26, 2010
Section: Arts, Etc.

When we were sophomores, you know, a million (ok, two) years ago, there were plans of renovating Grad. But they never materialized. And so, bright eyed and eager, we moved into our five-person abode in the fall of 2008. For two years now we have endured the sympathetic smiles, pitying glances and outbursts of disgust when we revealed our living location. No amount of urging that we call our dwelling ‘Chuck River’ could induce non-Grad dwellers to change their opinion of our Soviet bloc housing.

But now, given the imminent increase of students on campus, it seems the Office of Capital Projects and the Department of Community Living have decided to transform Grad into a place your parents won’t resent paying for.

The prototype apartment was unveiled Wednesday, and it looks quite spiffy. Smartly, they chose a spacious five-person to act as guinea pig, quietly seducing naive sophomores who don’t realize that the larger apartments are few and far between. Luckily for us, we live in a five-person apartment, so we are able to compare apples to rotten apples.

The changes to Grad are substantial but superficial. The apartment floor plan still features the same mini fifth bedroom and narrow kitchen. But they have added more overhead lighting to the living room and overhead lighting to all of the bedrooms. Instead of one light at the far end of the living room, there are now four lights to brighten the space.

Instead of the mix-and-match rickety tables and chairs that adorn our common space, the new Grad apartment features a smart wooden dining table, chairs and a coffee table. The most appreciated change that we will never actually get to appreciate is the addition of two functional couches. For those who have never watched bad reality television in our apartment, our couch cushions gave up a long time ago. As we sit here writing, we are very uncomfortable.

The kitchen is still small, but the appliances, cabinets and counter have all been upgraded. Unlike Ridgewood, there is no microwave or dishwasher. The bathroom fixtures have also been replaced. The new toilets feature the green dual-flush system found in Ridgewood. Aside from the addition of overhead lighting, the bedrooms are essentially the same. Instead of carpet, they have linoleum floors. The walls are freshly painted, and the shades are new.

The most clever change is the transformation of the storage dungeon into a functional well-lit room. Five-person grads have a room that used to be a kitchen that now functions as a storage room, but most are unfinished. Ours has pipes sticking out of the walls. The new Grad storage closet has extensive shelving and lighting, making it far less likely to turn into a dark pit of boxes and suitcases.

The renovations are nice, but they are not earth-shattering. It’s still Grad. The exteriors are still ugly and the floor plans still leave a lot to be desired. But now at least the inside is quite pleasant.

It certainly is not palatial or modern like Ridgewood, but I think the new Grad, with its bright lights and comfortable couches, will prove a very nice place to wile away the twilight months of your college career. Hopefully next year’s residents encounter fewer condolences over their lot in housing.