Correction appended: An earlier version of this story misidentified Nasiera Foflonker. She is an Engineering sophomore.
To the chagrin of many students living in Betsy Barbour, the residence hall’s dining hall may be closed come next year.
According to University Housing spokesman Peter Logan, the possible closure would reduce Housing’s operating costs by a significant amount.
Every year Housing officials revise the budget and look for ways to reduce operating costs before presenting a room and board rate proposal to the Board of Regents for consideration, Logan said.
Though Housing officials typically make a final decision on the Housing budget in March, Logan said officials in the Division of Student Affairs could decide the fate of the Betsy Barbour dining hall today, due to protests from the residents.
Logan said officials are considering closing the dining hall because of the opening of North Quad in the fall, which will be located at the intersection of Washington and State streets. Betsy Barbour is a few blocks away at 420 State Street.
University Housing officials held a meeting with Betsy Barbour residents Wednesday night to discuss the dining hall’s potential closure. Residents in attendance were opposed to the possible shut down of the dining hall and said it would hinder the sense of community that it brings to the residence hall.
At yesterday’s fireside chat — a monthly meeting where invited students can pose questions about campus issues to University President Mary Sue Coleman — students asked Coleman about the fate of the dining hall.
In response Coleman said she believed getting student input will be essential to making an informed decision about the dining hall.
Coleman added that she had also just discussed the topic with E. Royster Harper, vice president for student affairs, earlier in the day.
Harper, who was also present at the fireside chat, told a student that she still had several concerns about closing the dining hall for the all-female residence hall.
“I’m really concerned. I’m concerned about night. I’m concerned about space,” Harper said. “I’m concerned about the fact that, while we’re having some conversations, it probably has not been enough conversation.”
Harper also said she understands that closing the dining hall could alter the culture of comradery created in Betsy Barbour.
“I do understand that that decision is a big decision for us and it needs to be made carefully,” she said. “I’m not sure we are in a position to make that decision (yet).”
However, Harper said she couldn’t promise the dining hall would be saved from closure.
“It would be premature for me to say, ‘don’t worry, not going to happen,’ ” Harper said. “I would be surprised if we were there this year, because we’ve not had the full enough conversation about it I don’t believe.”
“It’s really important that the residents speak their mind about it and not experience the conversation as ‘it doesn’t matter what we say, you’re going to do what you want to do,’ because that’s not the case,” Harper said.
Nasiera Foflonker, an Engineering sophomore and Betsy Barbour resident, said she opposes closing the dining hall, as it would represent unequal treatment to residents of different residence halls.
“Considering the Barbour dining hall only costs about $400,000 to operate, and a new dining hall in North Quad is taking $2 million to build, while it will only hold fifty more people, it’s obvious that there is a severely uneven distribution of funds among the residence halls,” Foflonker said.
Betsy Barbour residents are also worried about their safety, as the dining hall’s closure would require them to walk to other dining halls for dinner.
If the dining hall does close, residents said they would prefer a food retail establishment to replace the dining hall. The students said they would be willing to work with University Housing officials to negotiate a decision that could work for both parties.
“We have been taking action,” said Seher Chowhan, an LSA sophomore and Betsy Barbour resident.
Some students who live in other residence halls, like LSA freshman Brad Damron, are also upset about the possible closure. Damron — who lives in Fletcher Residence Hall — said he and other Fletcher residents often eat at Betsy Barbour.
“Every time I can’t take the time out to walk to another dining hall, my parents lose that money,” Damron said.
Logan said housing officials are also considering other ways to streamline costs and are considering the students’ sentiments in their decision.
“We’re looking at other options,” Logan said. “It is likely that we may move in another direction than Barbour.”
— Daily News Editor Kyle Swanson contributed to this report.