Eta Hall sits dormant, it’s doors closed for the first time since opening in the early 1960s.
According to Dorie Paine, associate director of Residence Services, this year’s low number of resident freshmen has caused Residence Services to close the coed residence that used to house 82 students.
This year, residence halls are housing 4,229 students, a jump from last year’s 4,176, which Paine attributes to more students living in Greek Village.
“We made the decision to close Eta in the middle of the summer when we realized that we were probably going to have several vacancies in the fall,” Paine said. “Rather than have those (vacancies) scattered all over the place, we positioned to close one building so we could save some costs there.”
The closing of Eta is saving the University money by not running the air conditioning or electricity, as well as the cutting of RA staff and supplies, such as toilet paper and cleaning supplies, typically needed to run the hall.
“We hardly had any returners (to Eta Hall). That’s one of the reasons we chose to close that one. It doesn’t hold that many people, it’s mostly freshmen, and because of that, it is not one that many return to.”
Eta Hall is one of the older residence halls on campus, and it does not offer some of the more luxurious amenities as the newer apartment-style halls. Cypress and Magnolia apartments include kitchens and living rooms in every individual apartment as opposed to the one per floor in Eta. As with other suite-style residence halls with double rooms, there is one bathroom for every eight students in Eta.
“(Eta Hall is) an older one, but (the decision to close the building) wasn’t really about the condition of the building or anything like that,” Paine said.
Residence Services faculty maintenance program assistant Mindi Zink agreed that the condition of the hall was not a factor in its closing.
“There has never been anything wrong with Eta Hall. We’re always working on the older buildings, and it’s not in bad condition.”
According to Zink, Eta Hall would have had to reopen to house Hurricane Katrina victims staying at USF if any more had come to study here.
Despite the temporary closing of Eta Hall, which is scheduled to be re-opened next fall, Residence Services is discussing additional on-campus housing.
“There’s talk right now about adding another 1,000 beds at Magnolia,” Paine said. “It’s probably going to happen, but I don’t know that it’s set in stone yet. But when we plan to build again, if we plan to build again, it will be in the Magnolia complex.”
He also said that the decision to add onto Magnolia would be in response to the possibility of a mandatory living requirement for all first-time students. This requirement would not be initiated until 2007 at the earliest, Paine said.
“The bottom line is that there seems to be a better connection to the school when they (the students) live on campus,” Paine said. “They’re close to things and the proximity allows them to get more involved. They feel more invested in the school and feel a real connection to the school that persists when they graduate. That’s the overall goal.”
Paine also said studies show students who live on campus tend to graduate at a higher rate than those who live off campus. These studies are included in the book How College Affects Students by Pascarella and Terenzini, published in 2005.