Opinion

Andersen: New residence hall just isn't enough



I walked from a workshop on 17th Avenue to Hamilton almost every day while working for University Housing. On that trek, I passed the massive residence hall being built across from the Knight Law Center and marveled at its beauty. I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of place it would be. Would it be similar to the Living and Learning Center and house an upscale living environment? Or would it be more like Bean and Hamilton, sacrificing beauty and grace for efficiency?

As it turns out, neither answer is correct.

For a student living in the “Global Scholars Hall,” as it will be called, it’ll be more than just a dormitory. A University Housing official corrected me when I asked what the new dorms would be like. I am supposed to call it a “residence hall” because it’s more than just a dormitory — it’s a multifunctional community where students can learn, play, eat and sleep without leaving the building. There will be specialized halls and floors for students who are in the Honors College, as well as College Scholars and Freshman Interest Groups.

What really caught my eye was an idea that I’ve never heard before: the Global Scholars Hall has an immersion program for Chinese-, Japanese-, Spanish- and German-speaking [email protected]@dashes or no [email protected]@. Not only can international students live here and slowly immerse themselves into American culture, but students studying languages can also immerse themselves in the cultures they are studying. As a student who has studied German for six years, I learned on my first trip abroad that the easiest and most efficient way to learn the language is to be forced to use the language in everyday situations.

To me, this sounds cool. I think the perks and amenities (sushi bar, auditorium, on-site faculty, etc.) will bring more students to the University and help them succeed in their studies once they arrive. With this addition comes a better school, with the better school comes more money, and with more money comes more buildings and perks for the school.

Here’s the catch: it has only 451 beds – 42 percent less than Hamilton residence hall. Both Bean and Hamilton are crumbling more and more each day and it’s only a matter of time before they fall apart like a house of cards. So what happens when the two most inhabited dorms, which lay claim to nearly half the residence halls’ capacity, sink into the ground?

The school would be screwed. As of right now, University Housing places students in area lounges and tells them to bear it with a smile until a dorm room becomes available (usually when a resident drops out). Most of the time, this process takes under a term. This year, they were able to house every freshman who wanted a room within two weeks. In the past, University Housing dealt with large freshman classes by sending stragglers to establishments such as Stadium Park Apartments or Chase Village on modified contracts.

Although there are no plans for the destruction of Bean, it’s a ticking time bomb. For those of you who live there, or have lived there, you know what I’m talking about. I lived in Wilcox Hall in Bean during my freshman year and wouldn’t change a thing about it – I still have a weird, emotional attachment to the place. But that doesn’t change the fact that within the next 10 years, the place is going to be a hazard. Plus, let’s be honest, it’s an eyesore next to the gorgeous Matthew Knight Arena.

Nothing about building residence halls can be fast-tracked, either. For one, there is an unbelievable amount of money that goes into erecting a residence hall; the LLC cost the University $30 million and the Global Scholars Hall doubled the LLC, costing $68 million. @@http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4184/is_20110901/ai_n58114492/@@Also, the University is running out of space. The College Scholars Hall covers approximately 187,000 square feet, or 4.3 acres — not exactly an easy amount of space to find on a booming college campus.

The Global Scholars Hall isn’t going to be enough. I love that the residence hall is going to bring a new breed of students to this school, but I hope they are thinking about new places and plans for a new-age Bean or Hamilton. With a freshman classes growing larger every year, the school isn’t going to be able to let go of Bean or Hamilton until the replacements are already built and ready to go. Because the Global Scholars Hall will take nearly 26 months from start to finish, plans should start circulating around the housing office.

If not, students may be stuck sleeping in Columbia 150.


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