As a university, Bradley houses more than 90 percent of freshmen and more than 60 percent of its total undergrad population. And anyone planning on living somewhere for the next four years of their life are going to seek out something that’s safe and comfortable.
Prospective students will appreciate having a pretty substantial gym and an arena that can host big-name performers, but most of their time is going to be spent in the residence halls. Some, like University Hall, are in fairly decent shape, and that dorm is often first choice for incoming freshmen. But Wyckoff and Geisert Halls, for example, need some help.
This campus is at the tail end of the Bradley Renaissance campaign, a project that has brought us the Markin Center, Renaissance Coliseum, Hayden-Clark Alumni Center and, next year, the renovated Westlake Hall.
These endeavors have upped the ante on our competitive edge with other schools, but our campus housing has not. It’s time that a project focuses on fixing more than a coat of paint here or a bathroom there, and Bradley is finally looking into that with a long-term housing plan.
There were renovations in Geisert this summer to fix some of the lounges and remove carpeting, but it’s still dark, dingy and often smells like mold.
Heitz Hall had some major renovations on the bottom two floors, and the rooms are bigger, brighter and have movable lofted beds. University Hall has also had bathroom renovations, among other minor renovations.
All of that is necessary, but continually doing that won’t be enough. With the exception of Heitz, other housing renovations are band-aids; they’re not getting to the root of the problem.
Housing options for upperclassmen (Williams Hall, Harper Hall, St. James Apartment Complex) are in better shape, but competing schools offer suite-style living, which is something we should consider in this plan. Main Street Commons is the newest choice, but the price makes it a non-option for a good chunk of the student population.
Off-campus housing should also be a concern. The neighborhood surrounding campus is home to plenty of upperclassmen, and many of those homes are a century old and can barely stand on their foundations.
In addition, safety emails have been sent out twice in the past couple weeks to warn campus of reported robberies in those same neighborhoods. Students should be able to feel safe when they step outside their homes, and while every crime can’t be prevented, securing that area further should be a focus of the plan.
In this week’s article titled “Assessments begin for long-term housing plan,” Executive Director for Residential Life Nathan Thomas said he has no idea what this plan will be when it’s completed. An outside company is being brought in to assess campus housing, and from there they’ll draw up plans.
It will be expensive, it could take a decade and many of us won’t be around campus to see it when it’s done. But for a school so competitive in so many other areas, this is crucial to our future. And the university recognizes that.
Students need a place they can call home, and they should be confident that where they end up will be secure, accommodating and mold-free.