By RACHEL MANNING
Beginning next fall semester, Bushnell Hall will be closed for maintenance, according to the University of Mary Washington’s housing selection website. It will reopen for the 2018-2019 term. To accommodate the displaced students, the third and fourth floors of Jefferson Hall will revert from single to double occupancy. The main reason that Bushnell is being closed is so that air conditioning window units can be installed. However, that is not the only change coming to Bushnell, there will be multiple updates to appliances in the kitchens and study lounges as well.
“We figured that, while we’ve got the building closed and while we’re doing this project, let’s see how much we can get done,” said Chris Porter, the Director of Residence Life. Among all of the changes happening, probably the most noticeable one will be the making over of the lobby.
“It’s just not a very inviting lobby,” Porter said. “If I had my druthers, we would definitely take out the offices in the back part of the Bushnell lobby so you can see the windows, put in some area seating, see if we can do something creative with carpet tiles and make it so that it’s more like a living room and less like you’ve walked into the waiting room of a doctor’s office.”
However, some Bushnell residents seem perfectly happy with the lobby. “In Bushnell you will see people talking to each other in the lobby,” said Bushnell resident and sophomore history major, Darby Libka. In fact, according to many Bushnell residents, there is nothing at all wrong with the building. “This is my home… I love it, I talk about it all the time. It’s so great [with] the large windows and the big rooms,” Libka said.
“I definitely don’t think this should be a top priority, especially when you have buildings like Alvey with black mold… It’s really not in their best interest to keep those buildings open when people are getting so sick they have to move out, and then close a perfectly functioning building like this one.”
The sentiment that Bushnell is in no need of repairs isn’t unique to Bushnell residents, either. Junior English major Rachel Finston, who is a member of the UMW paint crew, spent two months painting Bushnell over the summer. “I’m genuinely surprised that they are closing it instead of putting in the AC units over the summer and opening it up again,” Finston said. “Our crew spent a little under two months working on it, and it’s probably in better shape than a lot of the other dorms right now.”
While the proposed changes have certainly shocked students, many were unaware of the repair plans, as the information did nor circulate well. “ResLife gave us no information about it at all… I actually heard about it just as a rumor,” said Jefferson resident and junior English major Gracie Foust. “They haven’t held a hall meeting about it, they haven’t given us any information unless we actively sought them out and asked them about it.”
Students were supposed to learn from the website that their hall was closing or that their floor would no longer have single rooms. The rationale for this was that students already get so many emails, and many of them don’t read those emails in their entirety. “When we sent the emails, we said ‘for homesteading, please see the pre-processing portion of our website, so all that information was kind of driving them to the website,” said Hunter Rauscher, the associate director for housing and operations.
“We didn’t want all that information to get lost in the emails.” “Everything is spelled out on our webpage,” Porter said. “So, I guess my question for them would be, how do they want us to get the information out?”
According to Porter, the students were supposed to have floor meetings with their RAs to discuss the changes. According to Libka and Foust, though, this did not happen in either Bushnell or Jefferson. “I would have really appreciated it if they had held some sort of meeting to talk about it, to come face- to-face with us and say ‘this is what’s happening, this is why it’s happening’ rather than just try to send us off to a website,” Foust said.
“To hear it by rumor just felt really impersonal, like they didn’t care about how we felt,” Foust said. The worst part of all of this, according to Libka, is the loss of the hall that has become a second home to her. “I’m definitely feeling sad to lose my home, and I don’t even know whether I’ll be able to come back to it in my senior year, because it’ll have the air conditioning and I don’t know whether I’ll be able to afford it… So this will probably be goodbye to a place I love very much and spend a lot of time in.”
While there might not be anything quite like Bushnell, Porter is optimistic that students will feel at home in their new residence halls. “We have a lot of great housing options, and when Bushnell reopens, it’s going to be a lot cooler,” Porter said. “I mean that both literally and figuratively.”