POINT: New ‘dorms for grownups’ address millennial need for companionship

On move-in day at the beginning of every fall semester, thousands of wide-eyed freshmen, armed with over-packed boxes and anxious parents, begin the complicated process of living with roommates in dorms or suites. The living space allows students new to the University to gain some independence while fostering social interaction, and resident assistants help them navigate the not-so-savory parts of living with often random roommates.

For a generation that’s increasingly social and accustomed to comfort, dorm-style living is a dream. It’s no surprise, then, that the emergence of Commonspace — coined “dorms for grownups” by The Atlantic — has been touted as the solution to a problem of lonely millenials looking for cheap rent and companionship.

It’s definitely easy to see the appeal of Commonspace on a financial level. With the skyrocketing cost of tuition translating into massive student debt and a decreased value of higher education, millennials are struggling. So the $700 to $900 monthly rent for Commonspace in Syracuse looks marginally better than the $630 to $1,060 monthly rent for three-bedroom units in the area. And we actually prefer to share our space — it allows us to bring our social lives into our personal ones.

Commonspace takes into account that young people today, with the rise of social media, more often live shared experiences. We work together, study together and eat together — and we want to live together. And as a result, millennials may find traditional apartment-style living isolating. Moreover, as technology provides us with constant connection, our social, professional and personal worlds are never truly separate. Just as phone notifications show up from Facebook, so too do work emails pop up after hours — and technology allows us to never really leave work or social obligations behind. And never being separated from the perpetual ping of responsibilities makes us more geared toward a lifestyle of multitasking. A more social living situation allows us to keep the constant connection with our peers that we crave.

It’s easy to see why someone would be doubtful about whether Commonspace would actually work and whether millennials are really prepared to stay in a college-like social setting. After all, one of the millenial generation’s biggest faults is that we’re increasingly viewed as immature and narcissistic — not exactly the type of people who would benefit from being around each other. And yes, young people are more social and are used to instant gratification, so we might not always be as prepared for maturely dealing with interpersonal relationships. For millennials, who have grown up with more screen-to-screen than face-to-face interaction, the difficult conversations are made even more difficult. So when “social engineers,” as the creators of Commonspace call them, play the role of resident assistants, they lessen the social burden of living with others by helping residents navigate complex social interactions.

Regardless of whether it will work, it’s much more difficult to answer whether Commonspace should work. Dorms for grownups could seem like hand-holding for a generation increasingly seen as coddled. But millennials need support — facing an erratic job market and a host of pressures that come with starting independent lives, we need others to guide and mentor and, yes, party with us. And we don’t just need people around us — we want them, too, as we become more conscious of how mental health affects our lives.

Dorms for adults may seem silly. But just as millennials have transformed every other industry — be it technology, education or arts — so too, will they reconstruct the housing sector to create models that will cater best to their needs. Whether we like it or not, the way millenials lives is changing. Maybe naysayers just need to deal with it.

Sonali Seth is a sophomore majoring in political science and policy, planning and development. She is also the editorial director of the Daily Trojan. “Point/Counterpoint” runs Mondays.