College in housing squeeze as Residence Life switches Lemon Hall’s class designation, takes One Tribe Place offline for 2019-2020 year

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ResLife made the decision to switch the class designations of Lemon Hall and Jefferson Hall so that they will house freshmen, upperclassmen, respectively. TUCKER HIGGINS / THE FLAT HAT

Last week, students braved cold winds and the threat of an oncoming storm while moving from across campus into newly renovated Landrum Hall, reopened after a year and a half of construction — half a year longer than expected. At the same time, email notifications popped up, first about changes to Lemon Hall and Jefferson Hall, and then about One Tribe Place.

Lemon Hall, Jefferson Hall

For those planning to live on campus during the 2019-20 academic year, changes are underway. The College of William and Mary’s Residence Life announced that Lemon Hall and Jefferson Hall would be switching class designations. In the fall, Lemon Hall will become a freshman dorm in order to accommodate more students who require air-conditioned rooms for accessibility reasons. Jefferson Hall will take its place as an upperclassman dorm.

According to Associate Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life Maggie Evans, ResLife, Student Accessibility Services and the College’s Office of Compliance and Equity began discussing challenges regarding meeting requested accommodations in October 2018. Of the current dorms available for incoming freshmen, none have updated heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, elevators and exterior access for mobility-impaired students. Additionally, there are very few single rooms available in these halls.

Incoming freshmen must provide medical documentation to be placed in a room that is air conditioned. Evans said that up until now, SAS and ResLife had to install window AC units in dorms such as Yates Hall and Jefferson Hall for those with approved documentation. However, these residence halls are on a common system that does not allow students to control the climate in their rooms.

“This means a student with an accommodation is unable to control their climate if we have a warm and humid day in December, when the system is on heat,” Evans said in an email. “Placing window units in cooled buildings is inefficient and can compromise the whole HVAC system as the number of window units increase. We were getting to the tipping point with maintaining the performance of building systems.”

ResLife and SAS had identified that Jefferson Hall and Lemon Hall had almost the exact same number of beds.

“As the needs and demographics of our student body change over time, our housing programs must be aware of such changes and trends, and prepare to respond to them appropriately.”

“Changing the [class] designation of residence halls from year to year or time to time is common practice in university housing operations,” Evans said in an email. “As the needs and demographics of our student body change over time, our housing programs must be aware of such changes and trends, and prepare to respond to them appropriately.”

Assistant Dean of Students and Director of Student Accessibility Services Lesley Henderson said that it’s important to note that neither Jefferson Hall nor Lemon Hall has been designated as an “Americans with Disabilities Act” hall, and both will house students with and without accommodation needs.

“The staff within Residence Life determine what residence or residences most closely match the ADA accommodation needs of students,” Henderson said in an email. “No one building is designated as ‘an ADA accommodation building’ nor is SAS in the practice of designating buildings as such. Actually all campus residences house students with ADA accommodations. As new buildings are established and as old buildings are renovated, it is a goal of the university to provide greater accessibility for all students, including those disabilities.”

ResLife will also place window units in all rooms of Hunt and Taliaferro Halls to provide more air-conditioned spaces for freshmen.

One Tribe Place

The second change to on-campus housing concerns One Tribe Place. OTP has long been under construction. When the Hospitality House hotel was purchased in 2013, it was segmented into three pieces: the original hotel, the 1984 wing and the rooms under the hotel, such as the ballroom and the restaurant. In May 2013, the College purchased the hotel and made minor renovations; a full inspection was not done prior to purchase.

After students moved into the original hotel, the College found that water infiltration had made the rooms in the 1984 wing, as well as those under the hotel, unusable. The College has been unable to pursue initial plans for renovations that included remodeling the ballroom, meeting rooms and restaurant spaces to bring them up to building code and make those spaces accessible for student organizations to use.

Current residents of OTP learned Jan. 15 via an email that the building would be going “offline” for the 2019-20 academic year. Evans said that an engineering study of the building made it necessary to close it to inhabitants.

“A routine inspection found early signs of structural deterioration due to age,” Evans said in an email. “The engineering study was completed to assess those issues. While the property is offline, work will be done to make structural improvements, address some water intrusion issues and make electrical and fire alarm system upgrades. The building is safe for current occupancy. Having the building vacant for the 2019-20 academic year simply gives us the opportunity to take care of the projects and upgrades all at once.”

According to Evans, the necessary repairs would be too disruptive to undertake while the building is occupied and too large to complete over a summer break. These repairs will only address the new issues such as the structural deterioration found in the original hotel building and a portion of the parking deck.

OTP currently includes several single rooms for students with and without ADA accommodations. Evans said that ResLife will work with SAS to find other residence halls for students who need accommodations. She also said that not all accessibility accommodations require a single room.

“Often, students who have an ADA accommodation for housing may participate in a one-on-one housing selection process with Residence Life,” Henderson said in an email. “This process was created in effort to ensure that ADA-accommodate[d] student needs are being met as they select their housing for the upcoming school year. This ADA housing selection process will continue as it always has, given whatever residences are available.”

Evans said that even with OTP offline, she still believes that the College will be able to meet the demand for on-campus housing, although the procedures are in place to work with waiting lists if necessary. The housing contract for returning students is due Feb. 20.

With all the recent changes to on-campus upperclassman housing, some students are worried about the possibility of being placed on waiting lists or not being able to acquire on-campus housing at all. Max Fritts ’20, who lives in Lemon Hall, said that coming from a low-income background, he is worried about whether or not he will be able to afford off-campus housing if there is not enough space for all returning students while OTP is offline.

“The timing of the announcements for Lemon and OTP heavily places lower-income students at a disadvantage because of how close the announcements were to the due date for the housing contract.”

“The timing of the announcements for Lemon and OTP heavily places lower-income students at a disadvantage because of how close the announcements were to the due date for the housing contract,” Fritts said in an email. “Because of this, lower-income students (and most students in general) were unable to make alternative housing plans before the housing contract due date.”

Evans said that just like changing designations year-to-year is common university housing practice, taking a building temporarily offline is also common and often necessary.

“We realize the change in designation of Lemon Hall and the temporary closure of One Tribe Place is upsetting to many students,” Evans said in an email. “I know the reasons for the changes are solid ones, but I also know this disappoints a number of returning students, and I am genuinely sorry for this. We strive to make the residential experience as positive as we can, and realize that unexpected modifications to housing options can be disheartening. I am confident that our returning students will be able to have a great on-campus experience in the wide variety of residence halls set aside for them next year.”

—  Flat Hat News Editor Madeline Monroe ’19 also contributed to this article.