Changes coming for campus housing

Kristian Biega, Staff writer

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year — housing signups. It can be overwhelming for students to navigate the housing process, find roommates and decide where to live on campus.

With new opportunities for sophomores in Ryan Hall and the initiative of having all students live on campus, the 2018-19 school year will bring changes for the entire Mercyhurst campus.

The office of Residence Life and the Mercyhurst administration are excited about the new housing options for next year, and hope that the students will be too.
Amid the excitement, many students are concerned and confused as to why these changes are happening. The main reason for the changes in residence halls is that President Michael T. Victor hopes to encourage the idea of a residential campus that builds a strong community.

“This is ultimately the goal: to bring everyone together and have this residential campus which is unique, rather than some of the surrounding campuses that are so spread out,” said Megan McKenna, director of Residence Life & Student Conduct. “We want to do improvements and for a lot of those improvements, we need to demonstrate that we have the people to improve it for.”

Ryan Hall is the new housing option for the sophomore class that is located between Briggs and Lewis avenues. It replaced six of the oldest buildings on Briggs and Lewis that were in most need of repair.

“The ultimate plan is to take Briggs and Lewis offline and renovate them all,” said McKenna. “So there is a bigger overall plan to start bringing our campus housing up to speed for what students want, need and deserve. We want you to enjoy living here.”

Ryan Hall will hold 350 sophomores in a design similar in scheme and structure to Warde Hall. It will have suite-style rooms in which four roommates will share two bathrooms and a living/snack area. There will also be a large common room on each floor to foster community.

Although it is a sophomore-only living space, the building itself is open to everyone. There will be meeting rooms and programmatic space as well as the full cafeteria and grab-and-go stations on the bottom floor.

It can feel frustrating for current juniors and seniors to see these improvements that they will not have the opportunity to live in. Many do, however, see the big picture of the future plans for Mercyhurst housing.

“Though obviously it is difficult to miss out on Ryan Hall, I am happy for the school that this new building is being made. When I give tours to potential students, it is an easy talking point, and many families are excited about living in brand-new housing for their second year,” said sophomore Psychology major Quinn Cooley. “I see very little negatives to the creation of Ryan Hall, and it really is just a physical representation of the bright and exciting future Mercyhurst has ahead.”

It is through this transitional period that future generations of Mercyhurst can have the housing areas that are as up to date as they should be

“I understand that it is hard to be the students in the middle, who want these opportunities but aren’t necessarily benefiting, so to say, from them. I really feel for you guys,” McKenna said.
These improvements to housing go hand in hand as new rules of living on campus are being enforced.

The previous housing rules stated that non-athletes were only required to live on campus two years and athletes were required to live on campus for all four years.

Now, Mercyhurst is becoming more strict with these guidelines, only allowing juniors and seniors to be considered under extenuating circumstances for off-campus living.
Students have mixed feelings about requiring all students to live on campus.

Current upperclassmen remember their housing experiences as positive, but they are glad to see changes happening for the next generation.

“I have enjoyed living on campus for the past three years,” said junior Anthropology major Lauren Harrison. “I enjoy living with my roommates. They make everything more fun. I like getting to know the people who live in the apartments surrounding me because it’s different every year.”

“So far at Mercyhurst, I have stayed at McCauley and Briggs. That’s not quite the same journey as going from Warde to Ryan Hall, but both living spaces have a nice sense of community that doesn’t always quite get heard about,” said Cooley.

McKenna urges students to consider their options and weigh the positives and negatives of what it means to live in community on campus.

“It’s important for people to know that in order to do more improvements, we need to really look at who is living on and moving off campus,” said McKenna. “I always encourage students before they make these decisions to talk to Financial Aid and look to other resources.”

If students have already signed a lease, it must be approved by the university, so McKenna urges students to turn in any housing paperwork as soon as possible.
Still, some students are skeptical of the changes.

“I think the changes being made on campus are important, but overall not feasible. Students, as it is, are crammed into apartments. It is not fair to require juniors and seniors to live on campus if they have the desire to live off campus,” said sophomore Hospitality Management major Chandler Brandetsas. “I certainly understand the legitimate reasoning for wanting to keep students on campus, but I think it would be better to allow students to live off campus to allow on-campus housing be not as crowded.”

Next year, freshmen will still have the opportunity to choose between Warde, Baldwin or McAuley residence halls. Sophomores will choose between Ryan Hall with an overflow into Duval.
Current freshmen feel overwhelmed with housing, but they will be the guided with meetings and instructions as they are the first to go through this new process from the beginning.

“Honestly, I don’t really feel well-informed about the housing process, and I was a little confused when I received the email about it,” said freshman English major Ally Schweiger.

“I live in Baldwin this year, and I would prefer to live in the apartments next year, but I may have to live in Ryan,” Schweiger said. “I like the idea of Ryan Hall a lot, however, I would rather not pay the extra expenses to live there.”

Juniors and seniors will have the options of the Wayne Street Apartments, the Briggs and Lewis apartments or the Lewis, Warde and 41st Street Townhouses.

There is also the unique option for females to live in community with the Sisters of Mercy at the Motherhouse near Mercyhurst Prep. Those interested in this experience should contact Residence Life.

The lottery and placement for Ryan Hall will happen before the rest of the housing selections to finalize the numbers in each building.

As for general housing contracts, the format will stay the same on the student end, with only internal changes on the administrative side. Although there have been some glitches with the new email format, the latest housing email was sent out on Monday detailing the sign-up timeline.

McKenna encourages students with any questions about any part of the housing process to send an email, call or stop in her office, because she would be more than happy to help.

Anyone who has any questions or concerns about Ryan Hall requirements are invited to attend a meeting on March 26. It will take place in the Student Union Great Room at 8 p.m.