Regents consider a redesign of campus housing

Kamariea Forcier

DULUTH — The Board of Regents on Thursday heard discussion of a proposed solution to the annual on-campus housing crunch.
A redesign of some residence hall rooms to increase the number of occupants would add 48 beds to the 4,873 spaces currently available for students on the Minneapolis campus.
The proposal, presented by Marvin Marshak, senior vice president for Academic Affairs, said the occupancy redesign could help overcome a serious housing shortage that the University faced during the last several years, when hundreds of students were forced into makeshift accommodations.
Officials listened to concerns voiced by Twin Cities student representative Andrew Toftey regarding the redesign of several dormitory rooms on campus in a meeting Thursday.
“I implore you not to do this,” Toftey said to the five regents on hand for the Faculty, Staff and Student Affairs Committee meeting.
The plan calls for a return to smaller living spaces inside the dormitories. Toftey, who was representing concerns from Centennial Hall on the East Bank campus, said several rooms inside the dormitory were originally designed for two people but were later converted into single-occupancy rooms.
There are two closets in each of the rooms in question, he said, but emphasized with gestures that the closets were about a foot wide each. Changing back to the original living occupancies would be very stressful on students because of a lack of space and privacy, he said.
Regents chuckled when Toftey said that students today need more space for clothing than students several generations ago. “Basically, the lifestyle of the 1990s has a lot more stuff,” Toftey said.
Addressing Toftey’s comments, Marshak said he is aware of students’ concerns. “It’s really one way to try to balance situations, neither of which is good.”
The 48 spaces will come not only from converting several single rooms into doubles but also from reassigning resident assistant living spaces in Middlebrook Hall. RA’s in the dormitories currently live in double rooms. Marshak said the resident assistants will be moved into single rooms, and the double spaces will be occupied by two students.
Committee chairwoman Patrica B. Spence said the regents were very concerned about stresses that students face, and said she and the other regents were working on plans in the future to accommodate student concerns.
Regent Michael O’Keefe added that he had serious concerns about the quality of student life, and that accommodation measures would be looked at in the future.
For now, Marshak said the smaller living quarters might be cramped, but added that students forced to live in study lounges last fall had suffered even worse cramped living conditions.