A new suite-style residence hall will join the options for student housing in 2011.
While the new housing option is part of Northwestern’s plan to have a location for themed housing, in the next couple of years it will provide standard housing for students due to the closing of Heemstra Hall after this school year.
The facility, which was approved by the Northwestern College Board of Trustees this past week, will take the place of the gravel parking lot located north of Stegenga Hall, according to Provost Jasper Lesage.
The residency, which will house 60 students, will offer a style of housing that is very popular on other college campuses, according to Lesage. Each suite will have a bathroom, kitchens will be shared between two suites and the hall will also have common areas.
Construction is tentatively set to begin this coming spring and the completion date set for December of 2010.
Several factors were taken into consideration for approving the building of the new facility.
First, due to various safety reasons, NW is required to close Heemstra by December of 2010 according to Lesage. As are result, the board had to make a decision regarding new student housing during this fall’s meeting.
Also, due to the economy, NW has not received enough funding to build the new men’s dorm in one stage. While the board did consider building the dorm in two parts, that plan would have committed NW to $500,000-800,000 of loan payments for each of the next 30 years, according to President Greg Christy.
“In order to finance that payment, we would likely need to raise tuition more than the average increase and cut faculty and staff positions and programs,” wrote Christy.
According to Lesage, the dorm plan discussed last year still exists, but it is being placed on hold until the college has the full funding.
While the new residency will not hold as many students as Heemstra Hall, there will be enough current student housing for next year’s enrollment.
“It’s easy for me to say that I understand how the residents of Heemstra feel, but I don’t fully understand how they feel,” said Lesage. “However, everyone needs to know that it’s the board’s obligation to balance what campus needs with what the school can afford. This project is an interim because it’s consistent with NW’s long-range plan and will help us get through the hump of the next year or two.”
Yet not everyone is happy with this decision.
Brian Moriarty, resident director of Heemstra Hall, said he was “shocked” to hear that the board had voted for the suite-style dorms. He first heard that they were considering this type of building last Friday, and he was surprised that they would choose a building that had hardly been discussed over the designs for the men’s dorm they had been working on for the last year.
Moriarty sees the suite-style dorms as a “quick-fix” that does not fit what Heemstra is as a community. According to Moriarty, the purpose of suite-style dorms is to break large buildings into smaller communities. However, he pointed out that Heemstra already has a successful community that should not be broken.
NW has “taken the cheapest route possible,” Moriarty said, which he says has caused the Heemstra residents to see this decision as morally wrong. He believes that the Heemstra residents deserve a building more suited to their style.
“The reality is that for over ten years, Heemstra’s been living in conditions that are not appropriate,” Moriarty said. “It’s been inappropriate and morally deficient at times the way that students have been asked to live.”
Moriarty wants to clarify that the Heemstra residents realize that their building needs to be replaced. However, “the issue is not that Heemstra guys want a really nice building,” Moriarty said. “They feel that there’s a moral issue at stake.” He mentioned the fact that NW has allowed its students to live in below-standard conditions for so long. In addition, they never consulted the students about the suite-style dorms.
In regard to the recent Heemstra demonstrations, Moriarty says the Heemstra residents “have every right to express themselves.”
He hopes the demonstrations will make the NW administration realize that “they can’t treat students like this.”
Despite his feelings toward the new building, Moriarty still has faith in the Heemstra community: “The Heemstra guys can make this work. I have no doubt about that.”