Officials look to renovate or replace residence halls

Students move their possessions into Mattilou Hall Aug. 20. UNA is looking at ways to keep freshmen on campus including either renovating current residence halls or building a new residence hall, said Vice President of Student Affairs David Shields. 

During the 2015-16 school year, 765 freshmen stayed in the residence halls Mattie Lou and Olive. This year, only 120 of those students decided to return to campus.

The university is considering ways to keep more freshmen on campus, said David Shields, vice president of Student Affairs.

“What we have been looking at is either constructing a new residence hall that will be focused on upperclassmen or renovating one of our current buildings, so either Rice (Hall) or Rivers (Hall),” he said

Shields said they will not decide anytime soon.

“I suspect that in the next year or so we will be making some decisions,” he said. “As we look at these plans, we have to look at them in the context of what the university is doing now. We know we need some more spaces, but we know we still have Rice (Hall) and Rivers (Hall).”

While the university has enough space to house students, most of the freshmen prefer suite style rooms and most of the 120 students returned to this style room. They want to stay in residence halls like Appleby East and West, Hawthorne and Covington that have this feature, Shields said.

“They have higher levels of privacy and bathrooms that they’re not sharing with 20 or 30 other people on a floor,” he said.

It is not shocking that only 120 students returned, said sophomore Caroline Thompson.

“A lot of people who lived in the new dorms didn’t want to downgrade to the upperclassmen dorms,” she said.

Shields said while returning freshmen want these types of rooms, there are not many available in the upper-class halls.

“The amount of spaces available in Hawthorne, Covington and Appleby (East and West) depends on how many students reclaim their room each year,” he said.

As of right now, Rivers Hall is the only building students can go to if there are no more spaces in cluster halls, said Kevin Jacques, director of university residences.

“What we heard from most returning students was, ‘I don’t want to go from having my own bathroom to having to walk down the hall and sharing a community bathroom,’” he said. “That’s what we were hearing from residents about the old and the new, and people want new.”

Thompson said there were many reasons why she decided to live off-campus.

“I wanted to live with my best friend, but since he is a male, we couldn’t stay in the dorms together,” she said. “I also wanted to be able to have a full kitchen and not have to share a bathroom with a whole floor of people. There are things I miss about the dorm, but overall, I’m happier in my apartment.”

Shields said all current residents in the residence halls will complete a survey to help the university come to a decision.

“It’s a very short survey,” Jacques said. “We ask, ‘Do you plan on living on campus?’ and, ‘Would you stay if you had amenities similar to those in Mattie Lou (Hall) and Olive (Hall)?’

“We are also looking into if students are interested in living/learning communities. For example, we could have a nursing community for nursing students or a video game floor for video gamers.”

Shields said the university plans to be diligent with this decision.

“We plan to take our time to ensure we do the right thing,” he said. “Whether that be renovating a current hall or creating a new residence hall, we want to do what’s right for the students.”