Written by Matthew Maschino
New apartments, new buildings, and new renovations are springing up all over campus, giving Southwestern an incredible facelift. With all this construction, it is unfortunate that some of the university’s most heavily used residence halls are neglected and decaying.
Moody-Shearn and Herman Brown are the primary housing for upperclass students who don’t have enough credit hours to get into the apartments and are not members of Paideia. Essentially, those two “middleyear” buildings are the sophomore and junior residence halls.
Built in the 1960s, Moody-Shearn and Herman Brown have a unique architecture, reminiscent of a cheap motel. While groovy when the buildings were built 40 years ago, they seem antiquated on Southwestern’s modern campus.
More importantly, the buildings have not withstood the test of time as well as other older residences like Kurth and Ruter. The HB-MS complex is in desperate need of renovation.
ResLife has received a plethora of complaints from residents this year regarding leaking bathrooms, beds that don’t fit in rooms, doors that won’t close and poor lighting. Some residents of Moody-Shearn in particular refer to their hall by replacing “Shearn” with a more colorful noun.
In previous years, moving off campus was an attractive option to avoid the HB-MS complex. Unfortunately, the new residency requirements for this year’s first year students will force them to remain on campus for an additional year, subjecting them to the HB-MS housing agony.
The residence halls for middleyears have such a bad reputation that many first-year students have already begun finding inventive ways to escape the system.
As an RA in a first-year hall, I have noticed that an incredibly large number of first-year students are showing interest in becoming RAs in first-year dorms next year primarily as a way to avoid the HB-MS complex. It does not bode well for the university if students refuse to leave their old residence hall because they fear what awaits them as they go up the ladder.
There are many solutions to the middleyear housing debacle. The construction of new residence halls on the west side of campus, possibly in a style more reminiscent of Brown-Cody or Mabee would offer a feel similar to the first-year residences. More basic apartments, similar to the McCombs Center apartments would also be an attractive option.
Above all, the HB-MS complex must be phased out. They are in such disrepair and have such a negative aura surrounding them that no amount of renovation could truly change their reputation.
Why doesn’t the administration take action? Why are sophomores and juniors shoved into the lackluster halls?
The reason is that sophomores and juniors do not have nearly as influential a role in shaping the image and reputation of the university as the first-years and the seniors do.
First-year students typically receive better housing arrangements than their middleyear counterparts because creating positive first impressions is essential to maintaining a high retention rate. Retention doesn’t seem to be as important for sophomores and juniors since they have already paid several semesters worth of tuition to attend Southwestern and now have a vested interest in completing their education here.
Seniors have priority in receiving an on-campus apartment, all of which have been built within the past decade and feature the newest amenities. It is not just their seniority that gives seniors this privilege. The university’s administration wants seniors to leave Southwestern with a positive attitude toward their alma matter. After all, today’s graduates are tomorrow’s wealthy donors.
Both first years and seniors also play an important role in attracting prospective students to the university. Campus tour guides always show prospective students the first year halls and point out the upperclass apartments.
The middleyear residence halls are not showcased by tour guides. They aren’t placed on the front cover of pamphlets. They don’t appear in every edition of the Southwestern Magazine. They are left in obscurity—ignored and neglected.
This is not the way to run a university. As students, we must not let the public relations spinmasters place higher priority on half of the student body and forget about the other half. Every student is worthy of the university’s attention. Every student deserves decent housing, regardless of how many years they’ve been here.
President Schrum’s residence is the posh Turner-Fleming House on the far east side of campus. Drop by sometime and let him know how you feel.