Come next semester, Dickey Wood Hall will be entirely offline to students. Due to a combination of low on-campus enrollment and the unpopularity of the towers, they will remain empty during the next school year and possibly beyond.
“We’ve made this decision for now, but we’re not entirely sure what’s going to happen in the future,” said Executive Director of Student Life Joy Pufhal.
Pufhal said that keeping the towers empty will save the university roughly $170,000 through saved expenses on maintenance, heat, electric, staff and other operating costs. She also said the towers would cost $2 million to demolish and that renovating it would essentially cost more than building an entirely new building elsewhere.
Chief Financial Officer Dick Campbell said that with current enrollment projections, the towers simply won’t be necessary. The campus had about 1,500 rooms in 2011, he said, and enrollment that year didn’t come close to filling those available spaces. This year USM officials predicted that there will be 1,066 students on campus next year, said Campbell. He explained that that number of students could be housed next year without using Dickey-Wood.
Pufhal echoed him. “I’m confident we can accommodate the student need for housing with the remaining six residence halls,” said Pufhal.
The closure of Dickey-Wood was one of the most common cost-saving recommendations to come out of the Direction Package Advisory Board work, but both Pufhal and Campbell said that it wasn’t entirely a cost-based decision. They both said the student experience will be changed for the better with this decision.
“The community will benefit from consolidating students,” said Pufhal. “We want to help create a more vibrant community in a more modern space.”
This past year each floor in Wood tower was occupied, but only the second floor of Dickey tower was used. There are 368 beds available in Dickey-Wood. During the 2012-13 school year only 229 of those were occupied and that number has dropped to 158 in the past year.
“We don’t usually see returning students go for the towers,” said Director of Gorham student life Jason Saucier. “More often they go for singles.”
Pufhal said that the empty rooms throughout the towers were not building any sort of community among the residents and that she felt there were a lot of students isolated because of it.
“I think of the students who stay there during breaks and have their few floormates leave,” said Pufhal. “We don’t want any student to have to feel that way. We want them to know they’re in a community where they’ll always have someone.”
Because of the way the towers are designed there are less rooms on each floor in comparison to other dorms on campus. Pufhal also said that the towers, which were built in the ‘70s, are run down and that she would want students to be in some of the campus’s newer buildings.
“That’s not one of the great construction eras, to put it mildly,” said Campbell about when the towers were built.
The towers are currently home to three living-learning communities including The Rainbow floor, which is dedicated to an LGBTQA community, a quiet floor and the Southern Main Outdoor Recreation group floor. According to Saucier, the Rainbow floor will be moved to Philippi Hall, the quiet floor to Anderson Hall and the location of SMOR is currently up for suggestions.
“I think this will, in the end, given students a stronger sense of community on campus,” said Pufhal.
Sidney Dritz contributed to this article.