Hall 16 is closed due to low occupancy, and it will be demolished and replaced with a new dining hall sometime in the future.
Affected students were notified by email Aug. 4 and received follow up phone calls if they did not select a new housing assignment by Aug. 8.
“Hall 16 just wasn’t as selected as other upper-class opportunities,” Executive Director of Campus Living, Dining, and Auxiliary Services Carrie Charley said. “When we realized we weren’t going to fill the building, we needed to do what was best for the students and for the University.”
Although the number of freshmen living on campus is higher this semester than it was in Fall 2019, upperclassmen numbers have declined, according to Charley. Charley says she suspects this is due to the exemption of Fall 2020 freshmen from SFA’s on-campus living requirement.
“We could have the capacity for 5,000 students on campus, but that’s just not where SFA is,” Charley said. “So, we’re taking this year to rebuild our staffing plan to match the number of residents we have.”
Charley said residence life waited until July 20 to make the decision to close Hall 16 because they were watching occupancy through the summer while housing applications were still being submitted. When the decision was made, occupancy had reached 23%, or roughly 100 students. Approved early move-in for select lumberjacks started Aug. 13.
“We received the email one week before my son was supposed to be in band camp,” parent Jennifer Newman said. “We had questions, but everyone we spoke to was so helpful and resolved the issue quickly. He was never really stressed because he knew SFA would get things fixed.”
Rooms were available in Griffith Hall, Kerr Hall, Lumberjack Village and Lumberjack Lodge. Hall 16’s near-twin, Hall 14, remains open for the fall. Although it is traditionally a freshman residence hall, residence life reserved select rooms in Hall 14 for students relocating from Hall 16.
“When [Residence Life] asked my son and his roommate if they were okay living in a freshman dorm, they were like, ‘We’re kind of like freshmen,’ because they hadn’t had the full campus experience yet due to COVID,” Newman said. “We felt it was very important to live on campus and have a normal campus experience.”
Charley expects to see a new dining hall, rather than a residence hall, replace Hall 16. Chartwells Higher Education Dining Services replaced Aramark in April 2021 as SFA’s food service provider, within the new dining contract is an investment amount designated for building or renovating dining halls. This money would fund the construction of the new dining hall, which would tentatively include a Panera Bread.
“Hall 16’s location and the infrastructure underneath is a more viable option for this new dining hall as opposed to the parking lot behind [Lumberjack Landing,] which was another area we were looking at,” Charley said. “We’re not going to make that decision without student input; so once the school year gets going, we’ll pull students back into that discussion.”
Along with emails and phone calls, Charley explained Hall 16’s closure in Facebook replies in the group “SFA Community”, which is not affiliated with the university. There were no official posts about Hall 16 on [Residence Life] social medias.
“We probably should have [made a post concerning Hall 16], to demystify it so people knew there wasn’t anything shady going on,” Charley said. “We were in a little bit of a transition over the summer. That’s a miss.”
There was one student who arrived at Hall 16 the day of move-in. Sophomore Jackson Barnard walked into the lobby of Hall 16 late in the afternoon and found an empty building. Although Assistant Director of Resident Services Donna Hammond had gone home for the day, she was able to assign Barnard a room in Griffith Hall remotely.
“Hall 16 had a few things I preferred, namely the location,” Barnard said. “I was confused when I was told it was closed. I was on the phone for about thirty minutes, and they were able to help me get a new room assignment in Griffith Hall. I drove over there and met my new roommate the next day.”