Responding to complaints concerning the condition of University
Housing, the administration plans to reveal extensive changes to
residential life this week. Proposals include at least one new
residence hall, renovations to existing buildings and improvements
to safety and information technology within existing residence
halls.

The announcement was made in the midst of a housing crunch that
has displaced a number residents. An influx of more than 400 extra
freshmen forced the University to move first-year students into
housing usually reserved for upperclassmen and undergraduates to
graduate housing.

Administrators have been reluctant to release concrete details
on the housing changes, which are still in development. University
Housing Director Carol Henry is set to unveil a comprehensive plan
at the University Board of Regents meeting Thursday.

Issues like cost will be approved at later meetings, and the
regents will not be voting on any plans Thursday, University
spokeswoman Julie Peterson said. More specifics will be presented
later in the semester.

Administrators say they have not yet secured a location for a
new residence hall — the first in nearly 35 years —
even though University President Mary Sue Coleman referred to it
during her address to the Faculty Senate yesterday.

“Multiple locations are being discussed but they
haven’t made a decision yet,” Peterson said.

But the University already has some information on the size,
date of completion and infrastructure of the changes, Residence
Hall Association President Amy Keller said. “They probably
have a location,” she said. When asked whether the hall would
be built on North Campus, Keller added that she was “not
exactly sure.”

Keller added that, while student focus groups have shown
ambivalence to having a new dorm on North campus, the University is
addressing student concerns of living there.

“North Campus also has a lot of attractions, the scene,
the quietness,” she said. “The new residence will
feature some updated amenities that might not be available in some
other residence halls.”

This year, the University has also made changes to busing
between North and Central campuses and added other features, like
convenience stores in Vera Baits I and II halls.

Other changes could include apartment-style housing, a design
becoming increasingly popular on college campuses. In the past few
years, schools from Florida to Missouri have built dorms in this
style, which housing directors say are more attractive to students.
Apartment-style facilities can include kitchens, living rooms and
individual bathrooms.

Changes in services could include marketplace-style dining,
Henry said at a regents’ meeting in April.

Administrators are also striving to integrate academics into
residential life. In Coleman’s address yesterday, she
mentioned developing “small interactive communities,”
where students can “combine their intellectual and
residential activities.”

The University also seeks to improve the housing infrastructure.
Over the summer, when the University regents approved a housing
rate increase, part of the increase was set to cover new fire alarm
systems in Fletcher, Mary Markley and Vera Baits I and II residence
halls.

For months, the Division of Student Affairs has been planning to
revamp University housing. Under the Residential Life Initiatives,
the office has conducted several focus groups and surveys involving
students, faculty and staff. This information has influenced the
architectural designs of the buildings. “It has a lot student
input in it,” Keller said.

Over the past few months, administrators have continually
mentioned these changes. Coleman cited it in her address kicking
off the University’s large-scale fundraising campaign this
April, stating that residence hall renewal is crucial to
“attracting the best and brightest students.”

The changes result from persistent problems in University
housing, according to the RLI Web site. While researching housing
needs, administrators saw a significant need for more space and
electrical services. Dining facilities, they found, were out of
date, and academic space was inadequate.

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