Renovations, fiscal concerns close Monroe Hall

On Friday, the Office of Residence Life, in coordination with Facilities and Planning and the Office of the Budget, decided that Monroe Hall will be closed beginning this fall.

State fire safety regulations require that campus residence halls be equipped with Integrated Fire Alarm Systems, and the college had been preparing to install that system in Monroe this summer. Facilities also had plans in place to close the building in the 2011-2012 academic year for a "full gut rehab," said Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Planning George Stooks.

The decision to close the hall a year earlier than planned derived from budgetary concerns. Had the improvements gone ahead as scheduled, "The new fire alarm system would have been put in, just to be taken out and put back in a year later during the renovations," said Celia Easton, dean of residential living. "That would have cost upwards of $300,000."

The Budget Office had already been considering closing a residence hall to reduce operating expenditures. "Facilities recommended Monroe because it made sense to take care of the fire alarm system and all the other renovations together," Stooks said.

According to Stooks, in addition to replacing the fire alarm system, the renovations will "replace all the windows, [and the] electrical, heating and data distribution systems." Easton said that other improvements would "benefit handicapped students, increase the number of bathrooms in relation to the number of students and make use of wasted space such as 'curfew walls.'"

"There is a focus on taking a double loaded corridor residence hall and opening up some areas in the building to be community based … we want to create student interaction spaces," Stooks said. "On the outside, it might not look all that different, but inside there will be noticeable changes."

"If I were to make a good conservative estimate, I'd say that Monroe could be closed for about three years," Easton said.

In the meantime, Easton said that Residence Life will strive to maintain an "appropriate learning-living arrangement" all around the campus. "There were enough spaces on campus this year to accommodate Monroe Hall residents, and I've looked at the numbers so we know we're prepared," she said. "We have enough beds for incoming freshmen."

"We hope not to have triple rooms, but people should plan on having about 25 triples at the start of the semester," Easton continued, adding that only freshmen will be subjected to tripled living arrangements. She said that those who pay their housing deposits early will have a lesser chance of getting placed in a triple room.

Current Monroe residents planning to homestead are being encouraged to select a room in neighboring Livingston Hall instead.

All Monroe Hall staff will be moved to other buildings, meaning some halls will have more residence assistants than usual. Current Monroe Hall Residence Director Karen Duerr-Clark will have the option to fill a vacant residence director position in a hall.

Easton also said that students requesting a single room for medical reasons will be granted accommodations in Livingston Hall.

The Inter-Residence Council offices, which are currently contained in the basement of Monroe, have not yet been relocated. "I think we will find a space which will be better for them to use," Easton said.

The funding for the renovations will be drawn from a capital budget, which is separate from the regular budget that is used for salaries and day-to-day expenses.

"There's not money in the bank waiting for us to spend it on something else," Stooks said. "In fact, the cash doesn't exist yet." The funding will come from bonds issued through the Dormitory of the State of New York.