Changes to residence halls to accommodate incoming students


Construction workers expand dining facilities for Illinois Street Residence Hall. Various residence halls on campus are undergoing changes to reflect the needs of the incoming 2019 class.

By Karen Liu , News Editor

University Housing started 2019-2020 housing sign-ups for returning students Tuesday, but students who are hoping to return to familiar residence halls in the coming school year might need to look out for the changes that are being made to dorms on campus.

The oldest residence halls on campus, Busey-Evans, were built in 1916 and 1926, respectively, and has been an all-female dormitory since it housed a fighter jet pilot group during World War II. However, the Evans wing will be hosting all-male students starting Fall 2019.

Alma Sealine, University Housing director, said there are more male students than female students in the incoming class, so they must accommodate more male students. However, there will be no coed floors, so no major changes will be needed.

Madeline Corbett, senior in LAS, has lived in Busey-Evans for all four years of college. She said in an email that she really enjoyed the sense of a supporting female community in the residence hall.

“There are a lot of woman-centered discussions and organizations, so there were lots of opportunities to talk about issues that I felt strongly about with other women,” she said. “ I also feel like the all-female dorm made me more comfortable in moving around freely.”

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    Corbett said she feels disappointed about the residence hall becoming coed. She said she relied on the dorm as a safe space for women when she had issues before, and a coed dorm could take that away from some female students living there.

    “There’s also a great female community here and that will definitely be transformed if the dorm becomes coed,” she said. “But I could always be pleasantly surprised — who knows.”

    While Busey-Evans is making changes in the demographics of its residents, Illinois Street Residence Hall will be looking at more structural changes in the coming semesters.

    Sealine said the first phase of renovation for ISR includes the dining and programmatic space in the basement. The second phase is the renovation of student rooms and common areas in Townsend and Wardall, the two residential towers of ISR.

    The construction on Townsend started May 14 and will be completed along with the new dining facilities in Fall 2020. Renovations for Wardall will not begin until Townsend renovations are completed and will be open in Fall 2021.

    “Everything is going as planned. At this moment, things are going well,” Sealine said. “I’d like to say shovels (are) in the ground, but there’s really no shovels in the ground; it’s more like equipment on site.”

    Sealine said University Housing intentionally took 440 rooms offline from ISR this year because they didn’t want construction noises to impact the students’ experiences, but they are opening up other residence halls in anticipation of ISR not being at full capacity for the next three years.

    “We’ve had the largest incoming class ever with this year and we will be able to still accommodate all of those individuals, in addition to the returners who want to come back to the system,” Sealine said.

    However, there are also more students coming to campus who needs accommodation for special needs related to their different disabilities, Sealine said. In Fall 2020, resident advisers in Allen Hall will be moved out of their single rooms so those rooms can be converted into living spaces for students with special needs.

    Sealine said students with severe food allergies or gastrointestinal conditions may benefit from having a single room, and there is a need that is greater than what is being offered.

    “These spaces are not necessarily wider doors or accessibility; it’s just for them to be able to live because they have allergies or other sorts of issues,” she said. “We want to provide more flexibility for our students when they come to campus so that they have a living experience that is comfortable and helps them be successful on campus.”

    Sealine said University Housing will alter the spaces on a case-by-case basis when a student’s needs are not met. The single rooms that are not filled by students with special needs will be put online for other students to choose, and Sealine is not worried about filling these rooms.

    “We have a demand, we have a need, we will fill it,” she said.

    University Housing dedicates approximately $6 million a year to renovation projects. Sealine said University Housing staff try to gather student suggestions and take those into consideration when making changes.

    Sealine said University Housing is hoping to install air-conditioning in Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall next, but what has hindered this conversation in previous years is because the buildings are historical.

    This year, the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall only had three living spaces left after the first-year students made their choices due to the addition of air-conditioning and single-use bathrooms, whereas it was always the last to fill in previous years, Sealine said. 

    “It is now a destination place because of those renovations, and so we know students want more air-conditioning, so we’re looking at those renovation projects looking forward,” she said.

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