Staff Editorial: Prioritize Student Housing

Walking Lawrence’s campus, one is presented with many buildings in a varying state of upkeep. At one end of the spectrum is Sampson House, the office of the President, in pristine condition. At the other end is Sabin House, the former house of Greenfire and several other campus organizations throughout the years. However, Sabin House has recently been the recipient of thousands of dollars of construction, turning the old campus residence into a functional space so it can be used for administrative support and the office space of Reverend Dr. Linda Morgan-Clement.

Until this year, Sabin House served as a Lawrence University small house: a residence hall for qualifying student organizations. Over its tenure in this role, Sabin House was allowed to fall into an alarming state of decay. It was simply not maintained. Residents complained of chipping paint, as well as the need for a sidewalk to the back (quad side) door to allow for accessibility in the winter, and connection to the rest of the quad buildings. These complaints and requests fell on deaf ears.

At the end of last academic year, Sabin House ended its time as a residence hall, instead becoming the office of the Julie Esch Hurvis Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life. When Sabin house entered this new role, it received a major renovation. Students watched during Fall Term as windows were replaced, the exterior walls were repainted and a new sidewalk was poured, connecting the back door of Sabin House to Meade Street and to the sidewalk connecting all of the quad buildings. Seemingly, structural issues with the building were not pressing enough when the building was a student residence.

Sabin House is not the only office located in a former small house. Raymond House hosts the Office of the Dean of Students. Sampson House serves as the office of the president. These offices are kept in great condition: no small feat when considering that Sampson House is one of the oldest buildings on campus. Money is being spent to maintain these offices as student housing slowly decays.

Other small houses face similar maintenance issues to Sabin House. In the small house at 742 E. Boldt Way (ORC) the heat was not working for the entirety of first week. Residents were able to see their own breath in their rooms do to the severe low-temperature weather during first week. At time of publication, the heat has only in the past few days started to work again. The small house at 221 N. Union (the former Phi Mu Alpha Sinfonia residence) has also been in a state of disrepair for the past several years. A few problems noted by residents were mice, mold, asbestos in the basement and faulty electrical wiring—which meant distrust of the fire alarm. Another issue at Sinfonia was a hole in the roof of an upstairs room that was not fixed by Facilities even after it was brought to their attention.

Small houses are not the only campus residences to suffer inadequate maintenance. Many of the dorms also suffer from unresolved maintenance issues. In Colman Hall, the elevator cannot be counted on to function. In Colman’s older wing, the bathrooms are in desperate need of renovation.

While many maintenance needs are left unattended, campus has addressed some. The Colman lofts and new lounge are a welcome and beautiful addition to the dorm. Additionally, the redone bathrooms in Ormsby are far better than the old bathrooms. However, these token gestures are not sufficient when other buildings still have massive issues, and money is being spent to spruce up office spaces in Raymond, Sabin and Sampson houses.

All in all, campus maintains a high standard of maintenance for its offices, but not for its student residences, even when severe maintenance issues are present in student residences. This shows a lack of regard for student needs. This issue is made worse by the fact that students are required to live in university housing. Campus needs to do a better job with the upkeep of student housing.