Come fall 2011, first-year students selected to live in the Phelan Residence Hall will be welcomed by a long-awaited change. Ordinary dorm features aside—from the desks to the twin beds—students will be granted the privilege of living in a completely remodeled dormitory.
As the oldest operating residence hall on campus since 1955, it is one of the most popular for young student placement, but also one of the most unlivable.
“The walls in Phelan are really thin and the ceilings are tearing,” junior Evelyn Obamos said.
Junior Evida Mars-Holt said, “The tiles would fall down from the ceiling in our bathroom.”
While rumors about Phelan’s renovations have been a long time coming, it has been confirmed by Vice Provost of Student Life Peter
Novak to take place over summer 2011.
“We’ve known we needed to do it for a while and we finally have the funding to do it,” said Novak.
The six-floor coed dormitory is scheduled to undergo construction on May 24th, the same day that the Harney Science building construction begins. “We have a lot to do over this summer,” said Novak.
The most anticipated part of the renovations will be the bathrooms.
Students complain frequently of the plumbing issues. Junior Andrew Sanchez said, “The showers on my floor last year would clog up and the floors would get wet everywhere outside the showers because there was no divider.”
There are also maintenance problems. “Many of the bathroom doors remained broken for much of the year,” said junior Rachel Denzer. “And it is disgusting and unsanitary that the garbage is in the bathroom. It’s a contradiction. It smelled really bad, and it was gross to have to brush my teeth next to it.”
Many Phelan residents were disturbed by the overall cleanliness.
“I didn’t like Phelan because of how dirty and smelly it was. I remember in the shower, I would stay in the middle because I was disgusted by touching the walls and I would always wear slippers because the floors looked so gross,” said junior Philip Sy.
Director of Residence Life Steve Nygaard also played a part in the renovation. Nygaard is part of the team including ITS led by Facilities Management that gathered student input.
“We’ve talked to former Phelan residents asking about concerns and what they would like to see,” said Nygaard.
Meetings were held with Phelan staff, and random students around campus offered contribution to Nygaard.
“I walked through Phelan and asked students I met various questions about the project,” he said. “It’s important to have their input.”
One important factor that Nygaard discovered is that students desire flexibility. “Students want to be able to move the furniture around! But what that means is you can’t do a lot of built-ins,” he said, in relation to the dorm room furniture.
Students also value their privacy, especially in the bathroom. The blue print plans for Phelan’s floors reveal bathrooms with individual changing stalls attached to each individual shower. There will be no need now for students to leave the shower in a towel to fetch their clothes.
Another complaint by students is that there aren’t male and female bathrooms on each floor. “I think it would be nice to have a guys bathroom on the girls floor and vice versa because it is a pain to have to walk to another floor!” said junior Lizzy Philips.
With the new renovation, both sexes will have bathrooms on each level.
Nygaard even revealed that the bathrooms will have the possibility to expand with the amount of male or female students using them. There will be a partition separating the bathrooms, and if it appears that one sex is using the showers more than the other, the partition will be moved to accommodate that.
One of the biggest changes for Phelan will be the relocation of the entrance. Visually, walking through Malloy Hall to get to the dormitory is not prime.
“The entrance to the building is going to be changed, students won’t have to walk up the hill or through Malloy to get to it,” said Novak. “The entrance will be down by the bookstore.”
Not only is Phelan going to be renovated physically, but the policies are changing, as well. Sophomore students will no longer be required to live on campus.
“Only first years are required to live on campus. This gives priority to students, especially freshmen and transfer students who will have greater access to student services as a foundation for their experience at USF,” said Novak.
This big news has many students excited, but not all see this as an advantage.
“It’s kind of disappointing that they’re not requiring sophomores to live on campus anymore,” said Sanchez. “They say they strongly encourage them to do so, so why not make them? It’s an important experience to have those two years on campus, in my opinion.”
Sanchez said, “It’s the school’s responsibility to assure that all sophomores and freshmen not from the San Francisco area are housed, especially with all the tuition we pay.”
Senior Lindsay Louie appreciated having guaranteed housing in Phelan. “I was a sophomore, so the nerves of moving to college were gone. I was able to enjoy school and enjoy meeting new people,” she said.
For as many aesthetic and functional flaws as the Phelan dormitory has, students made memories living there just the same.
“I liked living there because of its convenience; all my classes were on the main campus, in Cowell and Harney. The close proximity to the cafeteria, bookstore and computer labs was also nice,” said senior Delta Rae Gamueda. “I was able to wake up late, and still make it to class on time.”
Senior Ryan McGlaughlin loved the social aspect that came with living in Phelan. “Compared to my dorm experience in Gilson, I loved Phelan. What I loved about it the most was if you were ever bored or couldn’t think of anything to do, you could walk down the hallway and chat it up with somebody,” he said. “There was always something going on.”
Junior Reese Hayward said, “I loved living in Phelan. The best part is that almost all my friends lived just a few doors or floors away.”
Students and faculty alike do not doubt that living on campus improves student connections and enriches the college experience.
“For future freshmen and sophomores, I think living-learning communities are essential to creating communities at USF, developing lasting friendships, and understanding diversity,” said Denzer.
The location on campus is still a prime spot to live, as opposed to the upper campus on the hill.
Junior Erwina Kwan was happy regardless of Phelan’s appearance and smells. “It was fun living in Phelan. I would pick Phelan over Lone Mountain just because of its location on campus,” she said.
Renovating Phelan for new student populations would restore a sense of pleasure at having been placed in that dorm.
“They should make it a place where people would want to live, because my parents complained of how much they paid for dorming yet I was in a crappy location,” said Sy.
Construction will begin on May 24. The goal is to be completely done by fall move-in. Novak said if the construction is not complete by summer, they will put a hold on finishing it until next the next summer of 2012.
“I heard about the summer renovation but I do not know the details. All I know is it will be difficult to finish the entire building during the summer before move in day,” said Louie.
Phelan renovations would have started earlier but Nygaard explains that the project needs to be done one step at a time.
“Everybody’s known it needed to happen, but we had to make sure that the UC was done first, to create the space to expand and then go from there,” he said.
“Until you move the [former]bookstore out to create that student entry, it doesn’t make sense to do that work,” said Nygaard. “There is a lot of ‘moving parts’ to do projects of this size.”
As the time draws nearer, students and faculty alike await the remodel, as it is a huge part of the campus and an even larger draw to new students and their families. “I think it will be the favorite place to live on campus,” said Novak.
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