By Daniel Lang
Correction (12/9/15): an earlier version of this article placed Kait McDaniel’s move at the end of September. She actually moved two weeks later, at the start of October.
On Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, Kait McDaniel, a freshman, is moving. McDaniel had only lived on campus for less than two months.
She has two hours.
Beneath the searing sun of a hot afternoon, McDaniel tugs along every belonging she has, heaped onto a trolley cart. It’s not quite how she hoped to spend the Tuesday before her engineering test and math midterm. But given what she gathered from the housing department, she was out of options. Today she moves from White Pine to Peavine Hall.
It’s 2 p.m. now. She just got out of class. She has knocked on the doors of her floor at White Pine to find any at all who can help. She gets two or three.
“We got the weirdest looks,” she said, recalling how they passed the dining hall at lunch hour. “Random people would come help me, because they felt so bad for me …”
She admitted, it must have been an odd sight from a spectator’s point-of-view, seeing them haul her trolley along the streets.
“Honestly, the week I moved out of White Pine was one of the most hellish I had in college thus far,” McDaniel said.
Unfortunately, McDaniel’s story is hardly unique. She is among 70 first- year students at UNR this fall who were moved into White Pine Hall and told they could live there for just a semester.
Where the university had promised her, like any other student, opportunity for housing on-campus, fate had found McDaniel caught between a Nevada law and the university’s construction aims.
For McDaniel and others, this story began the summer of 2015, with another hall entirely different from White Pine — Manzanita. According to a university press release, UNR had seen record enrollment for the fall 2015 semester.
On June 3, Residential Life, Housing and Food Service sent students an email announcing the reopening of the Victorian-style hall for the academic year.
Rod Aeshlimann, director of RLFHFS, pointed out that many students changed their hall preferences to Manzanita, in response to the email. Students received room assignments a month later on July 14.
Yet one week before the start of the fall semester, a time when freshmen have packed from their homes and have begun their goodbyes to family and friends, came calamity.
On Aug. 14, the Reno Gazette-Journal published that the reopened Manzanita Hall would remain closed. Instead, students assigned would move into White Pine Hall — for one semester. At 4:04 p.m., freshman Mary Rudolph shared the story with her peers on the “University of Nevada Reno Class of 2019” Facebook group.
One week before the start of the fall semester, students found themselves first without a home. Then, they found only a temporary home, but students had no say in the matter. On Facebook, they were in shock.
Compounding their confusion was a lack of input from the university itself. But as it happened, even RLHFS was unaware.
“There was some news coverage on Channel 4 … and a release in the Gazette-Journal before we even found out as a department …” said Aeshlimann.
In the fast-paced world online, it took only a spark to light flames. It had been over 20 minutes since the story’s sharing before RLHFS, at 4:27 p.m., emailed students of their reassignments to White Pine Hall. With the story confirmed, students moved on to other debates with regard to the quality of the dorms and compensation.
As the semester began, students repeatedly asked their resident assistants for more details on how this could have happened. Yet most declined to comment on the subject.
“It was a heartbreaking thing for us to be split up as a staff …” said Juniper Hall RA Matt Denney.
“I don’t feel comfortable speaking on behalf of Manzanita and White Pine,” Denney said. He was going through training with RAs then-assigned to Manzanita at the time the news broke. “It was a heartbreaking thing for us to be split up as a staff and I was told not to speak on the matter.”
Aeshlimann says the RAs had just one week to empty Manzanita Hall and refurnish White Pine in time for move-in day.
The semester began, and the community of White Pine Hall took shape. Priorities shifted from a summer upset to an autumn of action.
Kristin Mitra, a transfer and junior from California’s Diablo Valley College, proposed how to make known the experiences of the community.
Her inspiration: Humans of New York, the photo blog that profiles the lives of residents of New York City. Mitra’s Humans of White Pine became a parallel project with a heart toward remembrance of the community fated to fall.
She pitched the project to the hall’s leadership council on Wednesday, Sept. 23. With full backing by the leadership council, a committee assembled.
Yet it dissolved before it could begin. By the fifth week of the semester, residents were moving sooner than expected. Mitra herself grew deterred.
McDaniel was the first from the LC to leave White Pine — she would not be the last. By Tuesday, Oct. 6, the committee disbanded.
“Honestly, this idea is great but in order for it to be successful it should have been implemented earlier,” said Rudolph. “I believe that we should just allow those who are moving out to move out in peace.”
Yet committee or no, some within the hall voiced support for the project. Richard Frewert, who was influential in the hall’s community, was the first to share his story and take his photo for Humans of White Pine. It went live on Oct. 12.
“My favorite memory was when [third floor] would all get together … and sit in one room, just having an awesome time telling stories, jokes, and doing whatever we felt like doing,” Frewart said. “It was more than just a floor in a dorm, it was a home.”
Since the project began, the hall’s Facebook page has showcased nearly two dozen residents, with three new resident features weekly.
A month after Humans of White Pine began, its leadership council disbanded — its representatives had moved. Still, its leaders remained dedicated to the community that introduced them to and grew up with at UNR.
On Wednesday, Nov. 18, White Pine residents came back together for a pre-Thanksgiving reunion. RLHFS had offered to display a photo of White Pine Hall and its residents in a special section of the upcoming residence hall for 2017.
About 20-30 residents still remain in White Pine as of early December, but they are expected to move into other residence halls within the coming days.
Alek Dimitric, a freshman who still resides in White Pine Hall, found the reunion night particularly memorable.
“After all that time and the people we have left — [and White Pine] was already pretty small to begin with — it’s even smaller,” said Dimitric about the night. “That people are still dedicated to being a family … I thought that was pretty special.”
Daniel Lang can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @memorylang.