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609 Residence Hall Closed Among Discussion of Residence Hall Renovations

At the beginning of the Fall 2018 semester, it was made known to the Beloit College campus that one of the residence halls — 609 Residence Hall, which offered first-year only, substance-free housing –was closed due to the drop in new student enrollment. The building remains closed with renovations underway, but it is unclear what plans might be in place for other dorms.

Beloit’s budget currently allocates funding for 330 freshmen students, which was just off the 323 freshman who were enrolled in the fall of last year. At the start of the 2018-2019 school year, however, only 260 first-year students were enrolled at Beloit College, with the freshman to sophomore retention rate dropping from 82% to 79%. The drop in incoming tuition and revenue led to the formulation of the Beloit Forward plan– groups of committees consisting of faculty and administrative staff aimed at addressing the budget deficit and finding solutions to the enrollment and retention issues. In the meantime, 48 staff positions were eliminated, cuts were made to D.K.’s Snack Bar serving hours, and 609 Residence Hall was closed.

609 Residence Hall, originally built in 1963 and the former home to the Sigma Pi fraternity, is located between the James and Marjorie Sanger Center for the Sciences and the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity house. The two-story building provided one female floor and one male floor to around 40 students living in double style rooms, and featured a large lounge on the first floor overlooking the quad in front of Wood and Haven Halls.

“[609] is planned to be re-opened next year as freshman only,” Interim Dean of Students Cecil Youngblood said in an email. “The list of renovations include new flooring and painting in all areas, bathrooms will get new fixtures and solid surface countertops and new toilet partitions, the floors and walls of bathroom and shower areas will also be resurfaced, the doors to all dorm rooms will be refinished and new hardware installed with door viewers, dorm rooms will have lighting replaced along with bathrooms and showers and stairwell doors will be replaced with new fire doors and hold open magnets.” He also noted, however, that there “are still some final decisions to be made.”

Former 609 RA Mustafa Quadir’20 also spoke on the new changes. “The rooms have a faux-wood flooring (kind of like Emerson) and the common spaces have carpeting that’s apparently anti-allergen and water resistant. They’re also changing the color scheme to a more friendly and vibrant tone. Overall it’s going to look newly renovated and modern! I’m hoping they’ll keep it a first year dorm because it has great common spaces and historically, RAs have always seen communities form organically in 609. That’s really important for retention.”

Beloit Student Government currently operates out of the basement of 609, which is also one of the two residence halls on campus that does not have air conditioning, including Emerson Hall, which are likely to remain that way.

In a town hall meeting Aug. 27 and in a follow-up interview on Friday Sept. 28, Beloit Forward co-lead and professor of Modern Languages & Literature Sylvia Lopez stated that committee members toured residence halls over the summer and plans were underway for renovations to be made to several residence halls, described as “facelift” that includes adding lighting, paint and carpeting. One building singled out was Brannon Hall.

The conditions of Beloit College’s residence halls were brought up by several students on the Aug. 27 townhall as possibly being linked to the troubling retention rate among first-year students, including issues like low lighting in the ‘64 Halls, the past issues of mold in Wood and Haven Halls and leaking in Brannon Hall and 815 College Street.

In the spring 2018 semester, former Brannon Hall resident Priya Heinen’20 reported leaking from the roof in her double despite not being on the top floor. The leaking was determined to be caused by ice forming on the roof and gutters that leaked into several other rooms as well. Water filled up several trash cans, pooled atop the air conditioner unit, and filled two light bulbs. Heinen was ultimately told that the leaking would stop once temperatures rose and a long term solution would not be reached any time soon.

As changes are made to the Beloit College campus in the upcoming months, it is important for students to pay attention to announcements from Res Life and the administration about possible changes.

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