The banner, above, reads "Welcome to the Home of the Keepers of the Palaces." It hangs at the entrance to the Physical Plant garage (which is gated at night as shown). This is a proud tribute to the Princeton Review "Dorms Like Palaces" rankings that Trinity receives consistently. This past year we were number 14.
We deserve to be in the top 20 most years. Having toured many residence halls on campuses such as ours, I know that most have small rooms with cinder block or concrete walls, no carpet, and a rundown air about them. I have also seen facilities that make me envious. Here's where we shine: the size of the rooms, the intimate feel of the smaller halls, the views, the balconies, the closets, and the suite style configuration throughout. We fall short in our lack of front desks, apartments (we have none), and facilities that are neither quaint nor modern.
In general, our maintenance is not deferred. On average one building is renovated each year. Last year Miller Hall was re-done and Calvert Hall is slated for this summer. Tentatively, Winn and Witt Halls will be done in the following two summers. This will complete a sweep pf the first year area following renovations recently done in Herndon and Beze Halls. Prassel, Thomas, and Lightner are in top shape as well from recent renovations. With each pass, buildings are receiving needed HVAC updates and fire safety updates (alarms and new sprinklers). In ten years, God willing, nearly every hall will have been completely re-done. And then we begin again.
At nearly $30,000 per room or more this process isn't cheap. The University should be commended for its constant upkeep of our residence halls. The next round of renovations should be less costly and more cosmetic, as renovations are prioritized in this order: safety, comfort (heating and cooling), and aesthetics. We have been aggressively addressing the first two in particular (a nice desk is less important when you have no AC in San Antonio). The Physical Plant, under John Greene's leadership does outstanding work renovating, repairing, and cleaning our facilities. They should be proud.
The rub comes when things aren't so bourgeoisie in the Trinity castles. Halls on the renovation list show their wear and, as former President, John Brazil often said, "students are very hard on our buildings." When I tour the halls, I see the good, the bad, and the ugly. The ugly being dingy stairwells, chipped paint on building exteriors, and bathrooms that are not of the brass-and-glass quality one would expect of a palace. (Tell us what you think by responding to the poll to the right...)
The Res Life staff cringes when we tout our palaces, because when others see the flaws that we see, they bristle at the characterization of our dorms as somewhat elite. They tell us all about it too. I don't blame them: When we boast about our halls we need to be prepared to back the bravado for the least of our rooms, not just the best. So, it remains a blessing and a curse, this Palace label. For better or worse, it is a jail of our own creation.