Dorm floors to be closed and converted

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First Heyns in BHT and First Kalsbeek and Huizenga in KHvR will no longer be traditional first-year and sophomore housing floors starting next fall.

Jay Wise, director of housing, explained that the size of the incoming first-year class was the main reason for the change.

“This year’s freshman class was smaller than we … predicted,” Wise said. “Next year’s incoming class may be a little smaller as well. That presents a lot of empty beds scattered throughout the halls. At the same time, we have seen a lot of interest in Timmer upperclassman [housing] … [and] students asking for single rooms.”

The question for housing, Wise said, was how to meet a different need with the resources available.

“It’s hard to do much with scattered beds,” he noted. “We have been tasked with what we can do to consolidate and reconfigure.”

The floors will serve several different purposes. “Single rooms are available for the first time in the new [housing] brochure,” said Wise. These new single rooms, depending on demand, will be available on all three floors for an additional cost.

“The second half of first Heyns will be the Wellness Floor,” a living-learning community currently housed in Timmer.  The exact purpose of the other two floors has yet to be defined based on needs once enrollment and housing numbers come in, according to Wise.

“Projections and predictions are projections and predictions. It gives us some options,” Wise said. Wise anticipates these options to include conference and guest lodging as well as spring break housing for students.

Wise explains that they chose to start the changes with KHvR and BHT because they are larger buildings that already house a variety of communities: the Wellness floor and upperclassmen housing in Timmer as well as the Creation Care, Grassroots and Honors floors in van Reken.

“We’ve done this before,” noted Wise. Timmer used to be traditional first-year and sophomore female housing before being transitioned into upperclass housing and the Wellness floor.

“BHT is a building of transition,” said Wise.

Students on affected floors were notified by an email followed by a floor meeting with the dorm resident director and resident assistants.

“We’re going to make sure we work with [the affected students]” Wise said, “and [that] their requests are met and they are excited about where they are living [next year].”

Wise anticipated a mixed student response:

“There is pride in your floor. Living on campus is such an important part of the college experience. … No matter what floors we chose the students would feel it. … It was a hard decision,” he said. “We are working to keep communities intact as best we can.”

Displaced students will have priority on upper floors of their original residence hall as well as priority in moving to other halls.

“The upper floors will be very sophomore heavy,” said Wise.  “We will be cautious thoughtful and intentional about putting freshmen on these floors. We want to be sensitive and [respectful]. It is a lot easier to talk to people and walk them through the process than emailing them in June and July. I advocated doing it now while people are here … I wanted to minimize the stress by letting them know early and talking it through.”

Yet, some students would have preferred even earlier notice.

First-year Jackie VanDyk, who currently lives on first Kalsbeek, said, “One thing that could have been nice was letting us know this was going to happen before housing applications were filled out so that … we could have applied for a different floor [in Kalsbeek].”

First Kalsbeek sophomore resident Sarah Hendricksen added that knowing earlier would have made it easier to “see who was staying [in Kalsbeek] and who wasn’t.”

Hendricksen and VanDyk expressed disappointment in being asked to leave their floor:

“This past semester we have made a more conscious effort to go to family dinners with our brother floor,” said VanDyk, “but now we don’t get that brother floor next year because they were planning on staying on first and now they are all displaced [throughout campus].”

Another concern was the impact this change would have on those applying for leadership positions:

“For the Residence Hall Event Team (RHET) and CLC, we’re not going to change anything. RHET is based on a building,” said Wise.

In respect to other positions, such as Barnabas, Wise explained that they “interview and then work on placement. We want the best people we can get and then work on the best location.” Thus, the process will not change very much.

Now having had time to process, some students are more accepting toward the change.

Brenna Rivas, another affected first-year, commented that her RA has been very available to answer questions: “[The staff] did their best to accommodate us.”

“We get to stay in Kalsbeek, [and] that was the main thing that we wanted,” said VanDyk.