No new residence halls planned for U

With high demand for on-campus housing, some students are placed in makeshift dorm rooms.

by Taryn Wobbema

Ashley McDonell lives in a lounge. The Spanish and global studies major is one of about 300 first-year students whose University of Minnesota acceptance letter arrived with one from Housing and Residential Life. The notice said sheâÄôd be living with two other girls in temporary expanded housing this year. In a corner room on the third floor of Frontier Hall, McDonell enjoys two large windows and a slightly lower cost of living, but no closet. The room has traditionally been a study lounge. Mannix Clark, associate director for central housing, said the lounges are converted into bedrooms to accommodate the high demand for on-campus living. Facing a similar problem, the UniversityâÄôs Duluth campus has secured funding for a 280-bed addition to a first-year student residence hall. Out of the 2,200 first-year students in Duluth, 90 percent of them live in on-campus housing, said Joseph Michela, campus director of auxiliary services in Duluth. Typically, 350 first-years are unwillingly placed in apartments due to the lack of standard dormitory-style units available. Michela said the independent lifestyle that comes with living in apartments can often isolate new students. âÄúItâÄôs their first year away at school,âÄù Michela said. âÄúThey tend to isolate themselves and donâÄôt get as good of a start academically.âÄù Duluth has a total of 3,000 on-campus housing spaces. DuluthâÄôs 280 additional beds wonâÄôt solve the overflow problem, but the campus doesnâÄôt want to build too much too fast, Michela said. Construction on the $14-million addition to Griggs Hall hasnâÄôt yet begun but is slated for a summer 2011 completion. Clark said the Twin Cities campus doesnâÄôt have any plans to add any housing units to its current 6,300 available. Later this spring, auxiliary services will submit a 10-year need projection to the UniversityâÄôs central administration. A new residence hall could be on the list, but just putting it on the list doesnâÄôt guarantee it will ever happen, Clark said. But there is a need. This year, housing services couldnâÄôt house nearly 500 students who were originally placed on a waiting list. In addition, 300 students were placed in the makeshift dorm rooms in Sanford, Frontier and Territorial halls. McDonell said she doesnâÄôt mind living in the study lounge, but she is more concerned about being told she has to move. Expanded housing is designed to hold students until other rooms open. Clark said his office tries to get students moved before the end of the fall semester, but in the past two years there have been students left over, like McDonell. But she probably wonâÄôt have to worry about being moved, Clark said. âÄúOnce we let them stay at the beginning of the second semester, at this point it would disrupt them too much.âÄù When students are told to move out of their temporary room, some hope they arenâÄôt moved too far. âÄúAbout three years ago, we used to move people anywhere on campus. Now we try to move them in their same community,âÄù Clark said. Laura Ricke, a first-year mechanical engineering student, lived with three other girls in one of FrontierâÄôs lounges during the 2009 fall semester. Right before she went home for winter break, she got to move her things into a new room. She was able to stay in Frontier and, though she said she didnâÄôt mind living in the lounge, she said the new space is much more convenient. She said that in the old room, âÄúmost of us didnâÄôt have the same schedule.âÄù McDonell is one of the lucky ones. Originally, she was placed with two other girls, but one was able to move out at the beginning of the spring semester. Now, McDonell and her roommate are comfortable, despite the lack of storage space. âÄúWe didnâÄôt have space to put things, so we had to be crafty,âÄù she said. Her room is filled with stackable drawers packed with their belongings. âÄúWhen you canâÄôt build out, youâÄôve got to build up.âÄù -Taryn Wobbema is a senior staff reporter.