Public housing makes changes

On Thursday, as thousands of residents moved into dorms all over campus, many used the newly redesigned MyHousing website to help them understand moving in, adjust meal plans or set up Internet.

Kirsten Ruby, assistant director of Housing for marketing, explained that MyHousing has all online housing services in one place for more convenience.

Ruby explained that the biggest undertakings of the summer were installing air conditioning in Hopkins Hall, putting new furniture in Scott Hall and renovating the Busey-Evans dining hall. Hopkins and Scott Hall will eventually be demolished to make way for the new Ikenberry Commons dorms, but Ruby said there is no exact date yet. Garner is slated to come down in summer 2012 and Forbes in summer 2013.

“Hopkins was a good candidate for (installing) air conditioning because it’s next to the construction site,” Ruby said. “(A/C) will cut down on dust, and it’s a valued amenity.”

A whole slew of improvements were made to University Housing facilities while students were away for the summer. Ruby said they hope new and returning residents will find renovations, including air conditioning, a new late dinner option and a new laundry alert system, beneficial.

Residents in Urbana will find a new dining option at the Pennsylvania Avenue Residence Hall: a late dinner called “After Dark.” This late dinner will be a fourth meal period, with an almost full menu of all-you-can-eat food, Ruby said. Residents can use either a classic meal or 9.50 worth of cafe credits — the same as lunch.

Many new freshmen had their first dining hall meals on Thursday after saying goodbye to their parents and meeting new roommates and floor mates. Alissa Stevens, Allen Hall resident and freshman in Media, had her first meal in Illinois Street Residence Hall, or ISR.

“There was a ton of different food,” she said. Stevens moved in Thursday.

“Moving in was super easy and so was Internet set up,” Stevens said.

Stevens’ friend Erin Ostojic, freshman in Engineering, moved into ISR on Monday for a Women In Engineering camp. She said she was glad to have moved in early and avoided the rush Thursday.

“Because I moved in early, I met a bunch of people, (and) now that everyone’s here, I know more people,” Ostojic said.

Renovations were made to the library in Florida Avenue Residence Hall, which opened as residents arrived to FAR. In Allen Hall, residents will be able to enjoy newly renovated minilounges in what used to be known as recycling rooms.

Wireless Internet capability was installed in Busey-Evans resident rooms, joining Barton, Lundgren, Daniels and Nugent Halls with in-room Wi-Fi. Downstairs in Busey-Evans, the dining hall was renovated and was open for its first meal Thursday. All over campus, students and staff will be able to pay for dining hall meals with credit cards.

This, as with many other improvements, was brought to the attention of Housing by former residents.

“Students can always put extra credits on their i-Card, but this is one less step,” Ruby said. “It’s also for faculty and staff and reduces the amount of cash handled at the front desk.”

The most exciting improvement of the summer, Ruby said, is the new laundry alert system. Last year, high-efficiency washers and dryers were installed in residence halls; this is the next step in that plan. Those washers and dryers are now connected with the laundry alert network. The laundry alert Web page shows how many washers and dryers are in use in a particular residence hall in real time. It also allows a resident to request an email or text message when a washer or dryer is free or if the machine is done with his or her laundry.

“We’re very excited about this new service,” Ruby said. “Also, high-efficiency washers and dryers use less gallons of water and less energy.”

Returning residents of the Lincoln Avenue Residence Hall will have some very different co-residents this year: the formerly all-female dorm is now coed.

This is part of the new Scholars Community in LAR. The Scholars Community is a special living option but not as program-focused as a living-learning community, Ruby explained. Instead, the Scholars Community is focused on bringing targeted resources to students who are interested in performing undergraduate research.

“The Scholars Community filled very fast,” Ruby said. “It’s a gathering of like-minded students, and we are excited to bring in speakers and resources for them.”