Rick Gibson stands in the corner of a classroom with his hands elevated at his sides as he speaks to a group of students. The students backs are in the foreground of the photo as they sit at desks.
U-M Housing Director Rick Gibson speaks about the new campus dorm at the student life town hall meeting Tuesday evening. Maria Deckmann/Daily. Buy this photo.

Six students gathered at the Couzens Multipurpose Room Tuesday evening to discuss the construction of the 2,300-bed residence hall on Elbel Field in a Q&A session hosted by Student Life. Rick Gibson, director of University of Michigan housing, and Susan Cramer, senior associate director of Residential Dining, both asked questions to the group in hopes of implementing student feedback into the new building plans.  

Gibson and Kramer posed questions related to residence hall room layouts, dining hall food preferences, amenities and communal study spaces. Students responded with a wide range of concerns and suggestions for ways to improve these aspects of residence hall life.

Gibson spoke on the purpose of the Housing and Dining teams’ efforts to invite student input for the new residence hall, conveying their commitment to student success. 

“We are committed to doing the best we can to design a complex (residence hall) that will support (students’) academic growth outside of the classroom, but also hopefully create a good community for you all to engage in and live in,” Gibson said. 

The students expressed their frustration about limited dining hall hours, claiming they do not account for late-night labs. Cramer emphasized the impact the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the dining halls hours. 

“To be 100% transparent, we haven’t fully recovered from the impact that (COVID-19) had on our labor force,” Cramer said. 

In an interview with The Michigan Daily after the event, Cramer highlighted how students bring a perspective that is necessary to take into account when constructing new residence halls. 

“This (residence hall) is their home, it’s their living room, it’s their bedroom,” Cramer said. “From a Housing and Dining perspective, having student input in those decisions is going to help us create spaces that resonate with student desires.”

When asked how this student feedback was going to be implemented, Gibson told The Daily that consistently addressing concerns is of top priority to the Housing and Dining teams. 

“This evening, there was some specific feedback that we’ll be sharing with upper administration, the design firm and the architects that are designing the project,” Gibson said. “Ultimately, we want to try to include amenities that we’re hearing on a consistent basis that we know students want.”

Taubman freshman Ryan Finlay spoke about his concerns regarding the close proximity of the railroad tracks near the location of the proposed residence hall. 

“One thing I’m really worried about is that the University has not considered the impact of the fact that there are active railroad tracks immediately adjacent to the housing,” Finlay said. “I’m just imagining a scenario where a first-year student moves into their west-facing (residence hall) room and they have a 120-decibel alarm clock of the train going by at 8 a.m. every morning.”

Engineering and Music, Theatre & Dance freshman Xander Salsitz told The Daily they thought the town hall was a great opportunity for student input regarding the residence hall living experience.

“I think it was really good to host this event,” Salsitz said. “I do feel like I was listened to, especially because the directors might not have thought about these ideas themselves. I’d like to see some of these suggestions implemented.”

Daily Staff Reporters Priya Shah and Mira Sripada can be reached at priyasha@umich.edu and msripada@umich.edu.