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The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

The Student News Site of Saint Louis University

The University News

Notre Dame cited as potential site for BMC offices; RHA, residents protest

Notre Dame Hall could be the temporary student union next year. At the moment, it is considered the “most viable option” for relocation of the Busch Memorial Center offices and departments during the BMC renovations, according to Kathy Humphrey, vice president for Student Development.

As a part of this potential relocation of offices, Humphrey estimates that 30 students will be displaced from the residence hall.

Based on previous years, approximately 30 residents opt to remain in the building, with the other 41 students moving to other residence halls or apartments. At the moment, 71 students live in Notre Dame.

Current Notre Dame residents, as well as the Residence Hall Association, have spoken out against the planned move.

“Relocating and inconveniencing students is the last thing we want to do,” said Mike Rozier, a student representative on the BMC Renovations Committee and the Student Government Association president-elect. “When we realized that it was not going to be physically possible to keep the BMC open during renovations, we had quite a task on our hands.”

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Humphrey described the relocation and displacement as being “for the greater good” and said that everyone is having to “make sacrifices.”

“If there were a way I could do it without moving these students, I would,” said Humphrey. She explained some of her concerns when trying to find relocation space for the BMC offices: The major student organizations that service hundreds of students need office space, many other student organizations need small group meeting space and securing a location at late hours of the night is necessary.

According to SGA President Mike Cappel, who also served on the committee, Notre Dame is the best option because it has the lowest cost of renovation, can quickly be converted to offices, affects the least number of people and can house all of the BMC offices and organizations in one building.

Rozier explained that other options, such as DuBourg Hall, Grand Forest Apartments and several others were considered but deemed not feasible.

“Therefore, while the displacement of 30 students is not ideal, it is truly the only viable option,” concluded Rozier.

RHA Responds

RHA passed a resolution on Monday requesting that “Notre Dame Hall (and other current resident housing) no longer be considered as a site for relocation of

BMC offices.” The resolution was authored by Dan Ellerbrock, Notre Dame/O’Brien Hall senator.

Ellerbrock, a sophomore and second year Notre Dame resident, said he started hearing rumors about the conversion of Notre Dame approximately three weeks ago. He then contacted Cappel to learn more.

Learning that Notre Dame was a more likely option for the BMC relocation, Ellerbrock scheduled an appointment with Humphrey. They met on Monday.

“Kathy [Humphrey] had hoped to have a final decision before we met,” said Ellerbrock. “I thought we were meeting to talk about it, not hear about it.”

He presented to Humphrey a packet of information including a resolution against the relocation from the Notre Dame Hall Council, a petition of 66 Notre Dame residents and letters from the Notre Dame resident advisors, area resident coordinator, community development coordinator and campus minister.

Similar packets were given to University President Lawrence Biondi, S.J., Provost Sandra Johnson and SGA President Mike Cappel.

After concluding the meeting, Ellerbrock sent a written response to Humphrey’s concerns the next day. At RHA that night, students were encouraged to e-mail and call Biondi, Johnson and Humphrey to express their views. Everyone who contacted Humphrey’s office was told to attend a meeting scheduled for today.

Assuming Notre Dame is the final decision for relocation, a decision that Humphrey says should come soon, the current residents will be given a higher priority within the housing system. Within residence halls, the students will have priority just below squatters. The priority for apartment placement is still being determined.

Humphrey said she would try to accommodate the Notre Dame community by keeping the students together.

Notre Dame residents are actually being given two assignments-squatters rights and a new assignment-in the event the BMC relocations do not occur this year.

“I’ve been urging people to start making other plans,” Ellerbrock said.

RHA President Mary Elizabeth Curtice strongly favors relocating offices to Grand Forest Apartments, where many apartments will open up completely. She suggests taking 14 first-floor apartments and dividing them up between students organizations and departments.

Curtice calculated that the University will lose $373,800 in housing revenue by having no students in Notre Dame next year. In comparison, closing 14 Grand Forest apartments would be only $189,420. With 132 apartments, and only 65 currently occupied by students under a Residence Life contract, Curtice believes this plan is better as it displaces no students.

Curtice is attempting to contact student groups that have offices in the BMC to see if they would be willing to move to Grand Forest instead.

Honors program affected

For the past three years, Notre Dame has served as the Honors Residence Hall, where honors students can have first chance at living in the building. In addition, the building serves as a central location for Honors receptions, meetings and discussions.

Duane Smith, director of the University Honors Program, started the residential component to the program as a place where students could “carry the academic discussion beyond the classroom.”

He believes that Notre Dame, which now houses 32 Honors students, is finally beginning to grow as a community of Honors students.

When Smith learned from some students about the possible displacement of the residents, he immediately contacted Humphrey.

He is concerned that by displacing this community that has finally begun to grow and develop, the community will have to start anew when Notre Dame is converted back to housing.

He said that administrators have assured him that the building will be converted back to housing. “The apparent short-term benefits of converting Notre Dame into offices may not be as significant as the long-term setbacks to the Honors community,” Smith said.

A breakdown in communication

“We should have approached the situation differently,” said Rozier. “When the idea of Notre Dame was brought up, Notre Dame students should have been in on the discussion from the very beginning and that is our fault.”

Rozier confirms that the decision was not made hastily. “In terms of changing it now, the decision is not irreversible, but we would need another viable solution rather quickly . I think we exhausted all those possibilities earlier.”

Communication seems to be the issue of a lot of students.

Ellerbrock said, “Even if the decision would have been the same, people would have like to know and be included in the process.”

Curtice said that the process could have been handled better. “The students on the committee could have done their job better and represented the residents,” she said.

Smith expressed concern that while other organizations and department that were being relocated from the BMC were consulted about their needs, but the Honors Program was never asked about its needs.

“At whatever meeting it was that someone suggested Notre Dame as a possible relocation site, I wish we had been consulted,” Smith said.

Cappel says the reaction from Notre Dame is expected, and he encouraged Ellerbrock and Curtice to “do their jobs” to represent their residents, just as he “did his job representing the interests of student body as a whole.”

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