In our March 28 issue, we ran a story headlined “No current plans for Alumni” in which a top university administrator dispelled rumors of an impending renovation for the infamous Alumni Hall.
Something will be done at some point, he told us, but it won’t be for a while yet, and nothing concrete has been decided.
While we love to report the facts and dissolve baseless rumor, there was little joy in that report.
As a voice for the student body, we urge university officials to reassess the urgency of this decision.
Now, we thank Dr. Schmidt for speaking candidly with us. As senior vice chancellor for advancement and external relations, building renovations are not exactly his realm, but we hope that other administrators are as open to conversation about the residence hall as he is.
We’ll make no bones about it: Alumni Hall needs some tender, loving care.
The dorm is livable, certainly, and looks like it was built to withstand nuclear detonation, but you could say little more to its credit.
Chancellor Hawkins has said repeatedly that “we shape our buildings and, in turn, our buildings shape us.”
This is a great sentiment when unveiling Trojan Dining or the Trojan Arena, Hawkins Hall or Bibb Graves, but if it’s true, what are we shaping Alumni residents into?
Showers are unreliable, and most residents know which showerhead or two (out of four) are usable on their hall. Some fluctuate wildly and uncontrollably between settings of “glacier” and “magma,” others dribble water out with no pressure at all and still others will fire a single thin stream—like trying to bathe with a squirt gun.
Sinks are missing, drains are clogged, ceiling tiles are moldy and no floor is without its “pets.”
All two-person rooms have furniture built into the walls, leaving few options for creativity in arrangement.
The concrete, tile and metal composition may make for phenomenal shower-singing acoustics but also means watching a movie, playing a video game or having a conversation is an affair the whole hall can hear. Passersby may even enjoy the sounds of bodily processes echoing from the bathrooms.
Yet, despite all the apparent issues, there is still a fraction of students who wish for Alumni to remain much as it is.
We spoke with one in our news story, and while he said he wouldn’t mind some spring-cleaning fixes, he liked that the dorm encouraged a healthy community atmosphere, rather than more solitary living.
We appreciate those sentiments and can’t deny that Alumni residents tend to know or at least recognize one another more than those in other buildings, but even this is a false positive.
Residents are motivated to mingle with one another and build a community, not because of engaging activities or myriad options for entertainment and social interaction. Rather, they spend time with each other in common areas because, as one resident told us, “it beats being in the room.”
The answer to community building is not to make one’s own living space so undesirable that he can’t stand it but to make the outside options so desirable that he would leave the comfort of his own room to join in.
In the end, something must be done, as Dr. Schmidt admitted, but we implore you to hasten the effort.
We suggest two options.
One option is to simply update the current facilities.
Carpet the floors, panel the walls, install individual air conditioning units, replace some piping and shower heads and give residents the same movable wooden furniture available in the more modern residence halls.
With just these additions, the building is as new and infinitely more inviting.
The other alternative is a more intensive process.
Under this plan, the previous modernization effort would also take place, but more notable would be the addition and expansion of the building itself, similar to the recent additions on Bibb Graves.
Added to the outside of the building and accessible through doors in the back of each room (where the windows currently are) would be private bathrooms. Shared by the two or three people in each room and not by the entire hall would make the lavatory experience far less awkward for the uninitiated and would be an enormous selling point for the dorm and university.
The same effect could even be reached at less cost by putting a door to the same bathroom in two adjacent rooms, creating suites much like the ones found in Clements or Shackelford halls.
The existing community bathrooms can then be gutted and converted into study or game rooms with tables, chairs, couches and the like.
University officials know well that on-campus life can be one of the greatest marketing agents for interested students, and the dorm a prospective student may be living in can make or break his decision to enroll.
While addressing Alumni’s current problems would displace hundreds of students at once, the long-term benefits far outweigh the short-term hassles.
The renovation initiative could likely be completed in less than a year, and when all’s been done, the entire campus will benefit from it.
Alumni is, of course, not the only dorm that could use updating—Hamil and Gardner share similar features—but as Alumni holds a greater quantity of students and is in much visible disrepair, it should take precedence, and let others follow suit.
Troy University, reconsider your lack of plans.
The building is still habitable but, as it stands, is doing you no favors in recruitment or the provision of healthy study environments.
While you continue to help build lives for your students after graduation, don’t neglect the lives they live while enrolled.