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Thursday, March 27, 2014


The renovation of most upper-class residence halls is looming. The renovations tentatively being considered to take place sometime in the next five years include North/South Halls and the McFarlin Complex (Isabel, Myrtle, and Susanna). It takes time to move from conceptual planning, to drawings, to consultation with students, to funding requests, to final drawings, to construction, etc. But we start at the beginning...

Over the last several years, we have discussed how to best renovate these dorms without keeping the same pre-existing room configurations (suite style: four people in two rooms joined by a bathroom). We held a forum this week with a handful of students to get additional ideas and will take some proposals to the Student Government Association.

Here are some assumptions:

1. It appears the institution is committed to a three-year requirement.
2. When possible we should maintain current occupancy levels to accommodate the three-year requirement. In other words, renovations can't significantly reduce total occupancy.
3. In order for the dining services business model to work, those living on campus must have meal plans.
4. Because of expense and space, it is not likely that we will add on-campus apartments (meal-plan free), in the foreseeable future. It helps that there are a number of apartment complexes in the neighborhood that seniors may rent.
5. We will maintain our developmental residential model: first-year area (east campus quad); Sophomore College (larger halls, such as Thomas, Prassel, and maybe McLean Halls, which are easier in which to create community); and smaller upper-class dorms that lend themselves to privacy. The upper-class halls will continue to be more lightly staffed, with hall managers, and programs will continue to focus more on career development than social interaction.

Preliminary discussions involve several ideas:
1. For juniors and seniors, privacy is important. The addition of single room options is important, so students may have privacy to sleep, study, and socialize on their own terms after two years of roommates.
2. Variety is important. With five halls in the mix, we may be able to do a number of configurations. These may include single rooms with single bathrooms; single rooms with connecting bathrooms; single rooms with a small living area (similar to Lightner Hall); and double-rooms with adjacent living areas and common bathrooms.
3. Creative use of space needs to be considered. We can have more square footage in living rooms by reducing balconies in buildings that have poor views (North, South dark side, Susanna), for example. In addition, we could have smaller closets in order to create living rooms; we could shrink balconies overall; and we could remove some common area spaces.
4. Some amenities that we have discussed include full-size beds for single rooms; secured public kitchens (with individual lockers); and improved laundry facilities.
5. I have interest in allowing gender-free/sex-free assignment options for those in the same suites (not rooms). For GLBTI students this opens up a number of options.
6. I would like to see one or two of the halls have community-controlled first-floor pet options. Such options would mean students would provide their own beds and pay an additional pet deposit. The community aspect would mean that residents could determine if certain pets needed to be evicted because owners couldn't control issues related to hygiene, noise, and aggressive behavior. This reminds me of when we had single-sex male residence halls.

As more and more campuses offer apartment-style options, it is important for us to be adaptive to student needs, particularly for those entering into the third year of the residency requirement. Offering some single-room options for older students should be attractive for those wanting to stay in the campus mix while also having some of the space they need to themselves. After all, we would rather have students wanting to stay on campus as juniors and seniors rather than being anxious to leave those last two years. Careful and thoughtful planning can go a long way in making that happen. Please make comments on these proposals and other ideas and weigh in on the poll on the upper-right section of the blog.