Wed. Jun 26th, 2019

U of L Housing faces changes as university grows

Brace yourself for changes if you live on campus.

As campus continues to grow, U of L Housing continues to adapt to the changes.  Students, this semester, have seen new, off-campus affiliated properties and on-campus housing policies.

One of the potential changes is the removal of the Complex. As Housing Director Shannon Staten explained, many of the changes are still not finalized.

“Eventually, the plan is, these buildings will be torn down and this park will be put back to its original shape and then something else, residence hall-wise, will be built here.”

The U of L Foundation owns the land and is planning to restore Stansbury park, an Olmstead park, back to its original shape, which overlaps the land where the Complex currently stands.

It could be torn down as soon as next year, said Staten, with possibilities for an affiliated property, apartment-style residence hall or a combination.  The Foundation has made no decisions.

“There is no final anything on that though.  There is not a contract, they are still exploring.”

Staten said that if the Complex is torn down, it is unsure where Housing offices will go.  She said that she would prefer not to take over a current dorm.

“We want as many people to be able to live on campus as we can put if they want to be here.  We do not know yet, we are exploring for ourselves.”

Another change is the new on-campus policy, which will begin next school year.  This policy states that only freshmen or upperclassmen involved in an LLC, theme or other community will be able to live on campus.

“Space is tight because of the number of people who want to live on campus,” said Staten. “You have to be involved in some way with an affiliate, with an LLC or with a theme if you want to ensure a space on campus.”

LLCs and themes for next year include Honors, Engineering, Public Health, ROTC, Social Justice and more.

Of the students who currently live on campus, about 600 are currently upperclassmen and 2,050 are first year.  Staten said that only a small percentage of these would be unable to live on campus because of this policy.

“The difference is the freshman class has grown,” she said. “Then we started very actively trying to grow the living-learning communities and the themes.”

“It’s been very much an objective to improve the vibrancy of campus life,” said Dean of Students Michael Mardis, who mentioned the improvement of housing options and food on campus.  He said that the university wants students “feeling like they really belong here.”

In order to help with this transition, Housing is hosting educational seminars and open houses to encourage students to wait and make the best decision.

“We want to give them more time,” said Mardis.

“We said, ‘you need to start preparing,'” said Staten.  “It is not a time to sign leases, it is not a time to commit yourself anywhere.  We would prefer that you wait.”

“Our goal was to spend the fall  really getting everybody informed,” said Staten. “Then in January everyone can say ‘I made it through my first semester and this is great, and I think I know where I want to live.'”

According to Staten, one reason they are encouraging students to wait is so they can possibly know the future of the Complex.

After this information process, students will tell Housing their preferences in the spring and will be able to make final decisions at that time. One option is off-campus affiliated properties

Staten said that cost of living has been a concern for students living off campus, but explained that affiliated properties do not necessarily have to cost more.

“Students for the most part, living in the standard apartment (3 to 4 bedroom) could be comparable.”

Staten said that Housing is always aware of student concern with affiliated properties.

“(We are) very much connected and branched.  We make sure they understand students need.”

Current affiliated properties are Cardinal Towne, the Bellamy, the Grove and the Province. Staten said that the Clubhouse and Retreat could possibly be affiliated in the future, but there are no current plans.

“Right now the university is looking at the whole process of how we do our affiliation, so right now we are not in any negotiations.”

As with the Complex, no timeline is available for reconsidering the process. Mardis anticipates that it could be finished by next semester.

“We are looking at the vision for university housing going forward,” said Mardis. “The university set out in the 2020 plan to get to 32 percent occupancy on campus.  We are at the level so we are just deciding ‘what are the next steps?'”

“We are on track with what the goal of the university was, and that was to create environments that help students succeed,” said Staten. “We are exploring now what the future looks like.”

The concerns include student needs, funding and management of new properties.

“Things could change, that’s always a possibility,” she said.  “We anticipate that at least a majority of what we have will be the same for next year.”

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