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FAQ - Bechtel Residence and Residential Life

updated 2/28/18

The information below is related to the document "Plan for the Future of Residential Life and Opening the Bechtel Residence" that was publicly released and distributed to the Caltech community on February 1, 2018.

This FAQ page is divided into six sections:

  1. Overview
  2. Details about the Bechtel Residence
  3. Details about Caltech Housing Overall
  4. Details about Rotation
  5. Details about the Advisory Committee on Residential Life
  6. Details about Caltech's Board Plan

What is the Bechtel Residence?

Named for Caltech life trustee Stephen D. Bechtel Jr., the Bechtel Residence is a new undergraduate housing complex that will open on the northeast edge of campus in the fall of 2018.

Bechtel is the first new undergraduate residence to open on the Caltech campus in more than 20 years and will provide an opportunity for all undergraduates to live on campus for the first time in the Institute's history.

What is the final decision around Bechtel Residence and residential life?

The key elements of the plan are:

  1. Bechtel will be a multi-use, multi-generational residence open to all undergraduates. Bechtel will provide a new model of residential living that will be distinct from the House system.
  2. The residents of Bechtel will be full members of the residential life system, and will be represented in all student activities and in the shared governance of residential life.
  3. A new Advisory Committee on Residential Life has been established to help implement the initial changes, provide ongoing assessment of Bechtel and the Houses, and make recommendations to the Vice President for Student Affairs for further steps or improvements. The committee includes faculty, staff, and students.
  4. The process for residence assignments for freshmen as well as upper class picks will be reformed to maximize student choice and reflect our core values.
  5. Current off-campus undergraduate housing will be converted to graduate housing beginning in the fall of 2018.
  6. A new Residential Experience office will be established within Student Affairs to coordinate residential life activities and serve undergraduate students, residential associates, residence life staff, and Faculty-in-Residence.
  7. The Faculty-in-Residence program will be expanded to promote engagement between students and faculty in the residences.

Full details and the rationale for these changes are included in the Plan for the Future of Residential Life and Opening of Bechtel Residence.

How was the decision made? When did this process begin?
The Bechtel planning process formally began in 2012 with the initial decision to move ahead in the construction of the new undergraduate residence on campus. Since then, there have been ongoing conversations with all stakeholders, including a series of town hall meetings on campus, outreach to alumni, and presentations and discussions with trustees, faculty, student affairs staff, and administrators.

In the last year, three working groups—one composed of students, one of staff, and one of faculty—were also formed to fully consider, evaluate, and provide recommendations on the occupancy of Bechtel as well as the future of residential life at Caltech overall.

Vice President for Student Affairs Joe Shepherd listened carefully to this input and developed a plan for the occupancy of Bechtel and the future of residential life at Caltech. His final decision, announced on February 1, 2018, has been endorsed by the president and provost.

How was the community incorporated into the decision-making process?
Stakeholders throughout the Caltech community were engaged throughout the decision-making process through town hall meetings, surveys, presentations, and a numerous personal and group discussions. Representatives of the undergraduate, faculty, and student affairs staff communities were also invited to provide more comprehensive analysis of and suggestions for housing models and the residential life system through three separate working committees that were charged with providing input to inform the final plan and framework for residential life at Caltech.

The Committee on Undergraduate Caltech Housing (COUCH) played an essential role in developing the plan for the use of the Bechtel Residence. The considerations of various options and the consensus Polaris Plan presented in the COUCH final report substantially shaped the plan for the occupation of Bechtel Residence.

Requiring a new process for room assignments and revamping rotation was the decision of the Vice President of Student Affairs and was not based on the COUCH consensus report. The Vice President for Student Affairs, who has the responsibility to establish the process of change and set the requirements for the coming year, made this decision. The basis for this requirement is the accumulated administration experience from the several decades, the reports of numerous past committees, and the experience of faculty and administration with dealing with issues in residential life.

Why is Caltech opening up a new undergraduate residence?
Expanding upon Caltech's existing undergraduate housing facilities has been a longtime goal of the Caltech community, with reports and recommendations from several student, faculty, and staff committees informing the plan.

With the addition of the Bechtel Residence, we will ultimately be able to provide all undergraduate students with the opportunity to live on campus and participate in residential life throughout their educational career.

What will happen to Caltech's off-campus housing?
The Caltech-owned, off-campus houses and apartments will be converted to graduate housing.

What if my question is not answered here?
If you have further questions, please refer to the document "Plan for the Future of Residential Life and Opening the Bechtel Residence."

When will Bechtel open?

Bechtel is expected to open by mid-September, 2018.

How many beds does Bechtel have?

There are 212 bed spaces for students and 9 apartments (for six Resident Associates, one Residential Life Coordinator and two Faculty-In-Residence).

What are the room arrangements/layout?

Bechtel is mostly composed of suites with private (single-occupant) bedrooms and shared bathroom/shower facilities and living/dining/study space. There are several individual singles with en-suite bathrooms throughout Bechtel.

Here is the breakdown of the number of suites/singles:

More information is available about living arrangements and floor plans on Caltech Housing's Bechtel Housing Preview site.

What kinds of spaces will the building hold?

There will be 212 student bedrooms arranged as singles and in suites, with a variety of bedrooms per suite; 6 residential advisor and 1 residential life coordinator apartments; 2 faculty-in-residence apartments; 3 kitchens; 8 common areas/study rooms; 4 laundry rooms; a 220-seat dining hall and servery; and miscellaneous support spaces.

Who can live in Bechtel?

Bechtel will be a multi-generational residence open to all undergraduates.

Can freshmen live in Bechtel?


How can I apply to live in Bechtel?

The application process to live in Bechtel will be emailed by Caltech Housing to all continuing students.

Can I select a particular room, suite, or living arrangement in the building? Can I see the rooms before choosing to live there?

The room selection process is currently being determined, but it is our expectation that students will be allowed to select suites as a group as well as individuals. The process for specific room/suite assignments will be proposed by the Housing Office and evaluated by the Advisory Committee on Residential Life.

How much will it cost to live in Bechtel?

Bechtel suites (4, 6, 8 and 12 bedrooms) will be set at the on campus rate. Individual singles will cost the same as the Avery/Marks/Braun singles. Actual rates for the coming academic year will be released in March.

If I live in Bechtel, will I be required to be on the board plan?


Will Bechtel have RAs? PAs? Other?

Yes, Bechtel will have six Residential Associates, one Residential Life Coordinator, two Faculty-In-Residence, and up to six peer advocates and six health advocates.

When will housing/room assignments be made?

Housing Assignments for the coming fall will be completed during spring term.

How does the addition of Bechtel change the housing assignment process overall?

The Housing Assignment process will be kept as simple as possible to meet the needs of our students and accommodate their preferred living arrangements. However, it is anticipated to evolve as necessary to best serve our community. The Advisory Committee on Residential Life will review the process and make recommendations for changes on an annual basis.

I currently live off campus in private accommodations. Do I have to move into Caltech's on-campus housing?

No, but you are encouraged to consider the convenience and benefits that come from living on campus and are welcome to apply for Caltech housing.

I currently live off campus in private accommodations, but want to do move back on campus. How can I do that?

The application process to live in Bechtel will be emailed by Caltech Housing to all continuing students, including students who live in non-Caltech housing.

I currently live in Caltech-owned off-campus housing. Can I continue to live there?

No, current undergraduate off-campus housing will be reallocated to graduate students.

I live in one of the Houses and want to remain in the same house for next year. Can I do that?

That will depend on room availability and the House/room selection "room picks" process. There will be a greater chance for continuing students to live in their House next fall. With the addition of freshmen spaces in Bechtel, the Houses will not need to reserve as many bed spaces for freshmen, thus freeing up more space for upperclassmen.

Is there a four-year residency requirement?

For current undergraduate students, there is no additional residency requirements. Students will continue to be able to choose to live in off-campus rental properties or in on-campus housing throughout the duration of the educational career.

However, beginning with the incoming class of 2022 this fall, there will be an expectation that the existing, single-year residency requirement for students will be extended for all four years. The ACRL has been asked to think about how to best implement this expectation and will develop a process for how to apply and evaluate exceptions that will be considered by the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Is Rotation ending?

Rotation is not ending. The process of rotation will be revamped and an initial trial process will be implemented this coming fall.

Part of the charge of the new Advisory Committee on Residential Life is to assess the existing rotation system and make a proposal for the revamped rotation process to be implemented this fall, including an updated process for assigning incoming students to their residences.

Will the IHC still be involved with rotation?

Yes. The role of the Interhouse Committee (IHC) in rotation is not being eliminated.

In the short-term, members of the IHC are serving in the ACRL as it develops the revamped rotation process.

In the longer-term, the IHC will be working together with faculty and staff in the on-going evaluation and implementation of the revised process of rotation. The details of this involvement will be described in the ACRL proposal for the revamped rotation.

Will incoming freshmen be able to participate in rotation?

Yes. Incoming freshmen will participate in rotation and they will have the opportunity to learn about residential life before expressing their preference for a residence.

How will freshmen rooms be allocated across the Houses?

The ACRL will make a proposal for how best to allocate freshmen rooms across residences.

Their decision will be informed by consultation with the Houses, the Housing Office, and the results of housing surveys.

What is the Advisory Committee on Residential Life (ACRL)?
The committee is an advisory board, representative of the community with staff, faculty, and student members, which has been formed with the charge of providing recommendations and assessment for the implementation of the process and changes associated with the February 1 plan. The work of the ACRL has already begun and a website created to keep the community informed of the committee's activities.

Who sits on the Advisory Committee on Residential Life?
The committee is made up of

  • Three staff members (Tom Mannion, senior director of student activities and programs; Candace Rypisi, director of student-faculty programs; and Jarrid Whitney, executive director of undergraduate admissions and financial aid),
  • Five students (Diandra Almasco, Blacker House president; Sarah Crucilla, COUCH member; Catherine Day, Avery House president; Rachael Morton, IHC chair; and Sakthi Vetrivel, ASCIT president), and
  • Three faculty members (Kevin Gilmartin, Professor of English and Dean of Undergraduate Students; Richard Murray, the Thomas E. and Doris Everhart Professor of Control and Dynamical Systems and Bioengineering; and Antonio Rangel, the Bing Professor of Neuroscience, Behavioral Biology, and Economics).

Professor Rangel currently serves as the committee's chair.

How are student members chosen?
A number of students from the IHC and COUCH were invited to attend the first meeting of the ACRL and discuss the initial makeup and number of student participants. The students met as a group afterward, consulted with other students and selected the current five members.

The ACRL will be developing a process for how to select members moving forward, after the initial transition phase of the committee is completed this summer.

What are responsibilities and scope of the ACRL?
See the charge document on the ACRL website.

What are the initial activities of the ACRL?
The work of the ACRL is planned to be in stages as outlined the activities document on the ACRL website.

How will the outcomes of the changes in residential life be evaluated?
The outcomes of the changes in this transition year will be carefully examined and re-evaluated, making recommendations for changes as needed. The ACRL has the mandate to do this during the implementation period as well as following the experience of the first and following years.

The ACRL will be responsible for developing criteria used in evaluating the changes as well as establishing mechanisms such as surveys and interviews to carry out the evaluation process.

The ACRL has substantial flexibility for recommending changes within the guidelines of the February 1, 2018 Plan for the Future of Residential Life and Opening the Bechtel Residence.

If I live in Caltech's on-campus housing, am I required to be on the board plan?

What changes are being made/explored for board?
Caltech Dining will be experimenting with changes over the next term and a half which will include (but are not limited to):

  • Extended dinner hours
  • Chandler being open as a dinner option with a wider variety of foods
  • Creating options for students to learn cooking skills and participate in cooking some of their meals

Students who have thoughts, ideas, or questions are encouraged to relay their concerns to their food committee representative, or directly to Jon Webster.

Are waited dinners in the Houses going away?
There are no plans to eliminate waited dinners. The example of waited dinners has been discussed as one of the many options or possibilities that Houses can consider for altering the board plan.