Smith Hall: Brotherhood of communal showers

Smith Hall, located on North Avenue, is known for being one of the oldest dorms. Residents this year have had the added experience of COVID-19 restrictions. // Photo by Garrett Shoemaker Student Publications

Of all the freshman dorms on campus, Smith Hall is the most notable — and the least regarded. As incoming first-years were self-selecting their dorms, gossip about the infamous building spread among students.

Smith, an all-male residence hall on East Campus, is known for rats, mold and, most prominently, the honeycomb showers.

The showers are set up in honeycomb shape, with entrances to other shower stalls inside of an individual stall.

So, to walk into the back row of showers, one must first walk straight through the front row of showers, where an unassuming individual could be bathing.

These circumstances, while perhaps not the most ideal, have built a community within each floor.

The men of Smith have formed a brotherhood through shared experiences.

Zachary Dearman, first-year AE and self-proclaimed “proud Smithian,” has found his hallmates to be a key resource in his social life, especially during pandemic times, which may limit his and his peers’ access to group socializing.

“I’d say being more in the dorm, I get to know the other people in the dorm better,” Dearman said. “Everyone knows each other from the floor, from what I can tell. It’s a community setting.”

During his first day on campus, Dearman walked in to see that the ceiling in his room had collapsed.

However, when maintenance arrived two hours later to repair it, he was able to easily sweep that under the rug.

Another incident occurred in the fall semester that caused more discomfort, which once again established a stronger sense of brotherhood.

“It’s definitely different in that we don’t control the temperature in our rooms – it’s all controlled on the floor,” Dearman said. “We’ve had A/C the entire [fall] semester so far, except for two days ago. It got really cold one night, and that caused the switch to swap in the building and we all had blazing hot air. We all woke up sweating, but I think it’s a bond.”

Even the showers have further contributed to the sense of community within the dorm.

They have led to conversations between fellow residents while they shower.

“The curtains don’t go all way down to the ground, so if I see someone’s [specific] shower shoes, I’ll [recognize them],” Dearman said. “It’s a little weird talking to people sometimes, but it’s something to do. It’s a good social interaction. It’s a way of seeing people without making plans to hang out with them.”

Ryan Bard, first-year CS, also lives in Smith and enjoys the music played on speakers in the bathroom during typical showering times.

However, he has not formed a social circle within the Smith Hall in the way that Dearman has this year.

“My honest perception is that it was overhyped,” Bard said. “I shower early mornings or early afternoons, and usually, there’s no one else there. The people I’ve met, I’ve met independently of the showers.”

Bard attributes most of this to the COVID-19 regulations.

“With the COVID restrictions, forming a community is harder than normal,” Bard said. “You can’t leave your door open and have people stop by.”

Dearman, on the other hand, has found it easier to establish a group of friends on his hall.

This is especially thanks to the help of the Smith Resident Assistants (RAs).

“My RA’s on my floor are absolutely wonderful,” Dearman said. “They have set up multiple socially distanced activities that we can partake in to get to know each other better. We had a little birthday celebration for everyone on the floor with an August or September birthday. They laid out some treats, and then we came in a couple at a time and signed [a birthday card] and got a treat.”

Living on campus can be quite different from other years, but groups such Smith Hall have made it easier for students to settle into their new homes at Tech during a pandemic.

“It wasn’t necessarily a first choice, but I’m perfectly okay with living in Smith,” Dearman said. “You [find community] in bonding over in how we all get through it together.”