The high-rise dorms here at Northwest are the butt of far too many jokes. Exemplified by Dieterich Hall’s permanent nickname “Dirty D,” these ancient halls are routinely ridiculed as freshmen abuse them every year. Bearcats should never expect a pristine dorm, but they should be concerned with the lack of long-term planning for all the dorms on the part of University administration.
Everybody knows about the derelict condition of the high-rise dorms on campus. Students living in Hudson-Perrin likely laugh as their fellow students tell tales of toilets clogging, or darkened rooms in Millikan and Franken. However, Residential Life director Rose Viau mentioned in an interview with one of our reporters that the shiny new Hudson/Perrin halls were merely temporary dorms themselves. Although temporary dorms often survive longer than expected, it’s disconcerting to know that the “brand new” dorms that we heard about on our first tours of the campus were not made to last.
To be fair, the high-rise dorms were built to last. Built in the late 1960s and early ‘70s, they were made to last for decades. However, there have never been any major renovations since the dorms were built. The University has proposed renovations in the past, but were put on hold because of unforeseen costs.
In her interview with the Missourian, Viau detailed the issues with completing any major renovation of the high-rise dorms. Much of the furniture and structures in the dorm were built together, so fixing one thing almost makes it necessary to repair the entire dorm room. “Continued maintenance” has kept the aesthetics of the dorms fairly presentable, but the lack of major renovations has resulted in the retention of some 50-year-old pipes. A pipe bursting in Phillips is something that the University can’t ignore when considering funding major repairs.
Capital investment is the problem and one can’t underestimate the difficulty of finding money to appease everyone at the University. Each department will make the case why their needs are the first that need to be addressed. Yet, considering the lack of any extensive renovations, it appears that the University has largely turned a blind eye to the crumbling dorms. Even more, considering that another high-rise is empty this year, one can’t help but wonder what Northwest will do with entire dorms being out of use year after year.
All of this points to a lack of strategic vision. Viau made it clear that it is extremely important that Northwest find capital for major dorm renovations. It’s apparent that the longer they wait, the worse the problem will get.
Still, the lack of transparency from the University on this issue has been the most perplexing revelation of all. Throughout the process of our reporting on this story, with the notable exception of Viau, the Northwest administration has stonewalled The Missourian in our pursuit of information on the long-term plans for all the residence halls. Even if there were plans, we were never even given the opportunity to examine them.
After speaking to Viau, our reporter made efforts to reach out to other campus leaders to corroborate the claims of Viau and to dig deeper. After attempting to contact representatives in Facility Services, University administration began inquiring as to the direction of the story. Soon, the current project list on the Capital Program Management section of the Northwest website was taken down. Turn after turn, Northwest gave the impression that they had information that they would rather not share with the student body.
Due to the University’s silence on this matter, we don’t truly know how urgent the residence hall maintenance problem is. The director of Res Life seems to think it’s quite important, but it would be unfair to use only her analysis when drawing general conclusions.
Current and future Bearcats deserve to know the University’s strategic vision of their residence halls. Any continued suppression of information will only lead to further uncertainty and speculation from students.