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St. Edward’s to keep lofts temporarily

Tori Roeck | Monday, April 30, 2012

After sparking protest from residents and alumni of St. Edward’s Hall, the Office of Housing decided last week to reverse its plan to gradually introduce modular furniture in the dorm, originally set to begin this fall.

Jeff Shoup, director of the Office of Housing, said the original plan was to replace the existing furniture class by class.

“Our plan had been that we would have put modular furniture in all of the rooms where there were going to be freshmen next year,” Shoup said. “The next year, all the rooms where there were going to be freshmen and sophomores would get modular furniture, and so on and so forth.”

Sophomore Frank Soler, president of St. Edward’s Hall, said building lofts is a dorm tradition and residents were blindsided by the proposed change.

“[The Office of Housing] never explained it to us, and they never asked our opinion on it,” Soler said. “They went about it completely disregarding the students’ perspective.”

Soler said residents of the dorm began a petition as soon as they heard the news and obtained 90 signatures in one hour. The final petition, sent to administrators in the Office of Housing, the Office of Residence Life and the Office of Student Affairs, boasted more than 200 signatures, he said.

In addition, student body president Brett Rocheleau spoke to the Office of Housing on behalf of the hall, Soler addressed the Hall Presidents’ Council and Student Senate discussed a resolution supporting a reversal of the mandatory move to modular furniture during last Wednesday’s meeting.

Alumni of St. Edward’s Hall also flooded the Office of Housing with notes of disapproval regarding the change, Soler said.

In a letter sent to leaders of St. Edward’s Hall, Shoup stated the Office of Housing is temporarily postponing the transition to modular furniture in the dorm.
“After receiving several letters, calls, e-mails and visits, we have decided to delay the purchase of modular furniture for St. Ed’s,” Shoup stated in the letter. “The hall will eventually receive new furniture, likely in the next five years.”

He said St. Edward’s residents would be involved in choosing appropriate modular furniture when the time comes.

“We are hopeful that when we are planning for this change to occur, student representatives will have the opportunity to be a part of the selection process of the furniture,” he stated in the letter. “We do anticipate, however, that it is likely that all the old student room furniture will be removed at one time, rather than in stages.”

Soler said residents of the hall are grateful the Office of Housing listened to their concerns.

“Allowing us to continue to have lofts, or at least have a hand in the conversation, is a big deal for the students because to take away a big part of your culture and have it be forcibly taken away, you feel like you’re being robbed of something,” he said.  “Whereas if we have to make the change eventually and we can at least be part of the discussion, then it’s a whole different attitude toward the change.”

Shoup said only seven dorms on campus lack modular furniture, and all of these halls will eventually make the switch.

“Furniture can only last so long, and … for example in [St. Edward’s Hall], I think that most of that furniture has been there since the [1981] fire … in the 1970s,” he said. “You have to have a replacement plan.”

The Office of Housing will first focus on dorms that have both old and new furniture before addressing halls without modular furniture, Shoup said.

“We still have … two or three halls that still have a little bit of old furniture in them,” he said. “So we’re going to, for this summer, put on hold any one particular hall but try to catch up in the couple of halls that still need some new furniture, for example Dillon … and Farley.”

In the remaining halls that still allow students to construct lofts, Shoup said the Office of Housing would more strictly enforce regulations on elevated beds for safety reasons.

“We’re going to closely enforce the guidelines that have been there the whole time,” he said. “It’s all about safety.”

Shoup said he has seen elevated beds that obstruct exit doors and sprinklers. Students whose lofts pose these types of safety issues will be asked to remove them, he said.

Despite the crackdown on elevated bed regulations, Soler said residents are happy to retain their lofts, if only for a short time.

“This is a great sign that there is a connection between the students and the administration,” he said. “We’re really thankful for them hearing us out.”