Rodney dorms and dining hall to close in 2015, Dickinson may house upperclassmen
Incoming freshmen will be the last students to live in Rodney Residence Halls and dine in the Rodney Dining Hall. According to Senior Associate Director of Residence Life and Housing Jim Tweedy, the “most official” plan is that Rodney and its dining hall will close at the end of 2015.
Tentative plans are for demolition of the complex, though no official date has been set. Rumors that Rodney and Dickinson are going to be demolished have been circulating for several years, rumors Tweedy acknowledged as true.
“You hear, ‘One more year and they’ll be gone,’ every year,” Tweedy said. “But this time it really is just one more year.”
Each complex currently houses approximately 600 students, Tweedy said. The dormitories were constructed in 1966, according to the university website.
With age, maintenance has become an issue, Alexine Cloonan, project manager of Facilities and Construction said.
“Rodney has been tough to maintain,” Cloonan said.
Some of the problems include frequent leaks in the windows and roofs as well as problems with the brickwork and mechanical systems, Cloonan said.
When Rodney closes, freshmen will no longer be placed in single dorms, Tweedy said.
“For freshmen, we want to avoid singles,” Tweedy said. “We see that most students when assigned a single are actually upset about it.”
Students will continue to be housed in Dickinson, however, most likely for two to three more years, Tweedy said. The university will still need the bed space offered by the Dickinson complex. Because the complex lacks features like air-conditioning systems, maintenance is not as challenging, Tweedy said.
However, as the Rodney Complex includes a dining hall, providing dining options for students living in Dickinson once Rodney closes poses an issue. Tweedy said officials are still in conversation regarding what he called an “obvious concern.”
“The dining hall would be too expensive to maintain for just Dickinson,” Cloonan said.
Housing upperclassmen with limited need for a dining hall is an option currently in conversation, as well as possibly making Dickinson upperclassmen singles, Tweedy said, but no final decisions have been made.
Current West Campus residents expressed concern at the inconvenience this would cause. Freshman Blake Dantzler, a Rodney resident, said he would see the distance to another dining hall as inconvenient.
“I can’t even imagine,” Dantzler said. “It’s so convenient right now being able to walk right to the dining hall.”
Along with the Rodney complex, Kent Dining Hall will be closing in the fall of 2015 when new Academy Street dormitories open with a new adjacent dining hall.
Cloonan said she hopes the new Academy Street dining hall will attract students from all over campus to reduce potential issues on West Campus. The new dining hall will be able to accommodate the diverse dietary needs of students, Cloonan said.
Having to walk to Central or North Campus would be an unnecessary inconvenience for West Campus residents, freshman Alexandria Law said.
When it comes to making connections and assimilating, there is an overwhelmingly positive response among those who live in Rodney and Dickinson because students consider them to be social dorms, Tweedy said.
Similarly, Dantzler said he does not have many complaints about residing on West Campus.
“I actually really like Rodney,” Dantzler said. “It’s nice how it’s set up with the courtyard.”
The current West Campus employees are people Dantzler has gotten to know well, adding to the overall appeal of living there, he said.
Satisfaction on West Campus is higher, Tweedy said.
“Dickinson––with the smallest rooms on campus––are some of our most popular dorms in terms of student satisfaction,” he said.
Law said she thought West Campus was a good first-year environment.
“Freshman year, you want to talk to more people––you find out who you are,” Law said. “I think it’s good for freshmen.”
Surveys have reflected proximity to and interaction with other students is directly related to student satisfaction with their first-year experience, Tweedy said.
“We’ve found Dickinson and Rodney students by the end of the year have made about 20 to 30 personal connections, while students in dorms like George Read have made around six,” Tweedy said.
An important part of the freshman experience is student interaction, he said, and plans for the future will encourage this.
“Eventually we want to move almost all freshman students to East Campus,” he said. “If an entire section of campus was devoted to freshmen, it could really enhance the freshman experience.”
Cloonan said she believes this would pave the way for better programming.
“We want to get students more involved and give them a good strong first year,” she said.
With the opening of the new dining hall on Academy Street, which will be twice the size and offer seven times more options than any other dining hall, this shift of students to East Campus would eventually provide students with, essentially, a freshmen village.
With such a large number of current students who lived on West Campus for their freshman year, the “West Side Pride” still runs deep, Law said.
“West Campus, best campus!” Law said.