Across all dorms, the washing and drying machines have been replaced by newer ones, which residence life says is a result of a restructured contract with the supplier. The washing machines are predominantly top-load rather than the front-load machines of old. Amber Perrell, associate dean of students and residence life, says this is because students had issues with smell problems associated with front-load washers. She says the machines are still water conservative like the old ones, and front-load washers are still available in handicap-accessible dorms.
Another change made to all dorms were upgrades to the micro-fridge units within each room. The new units add USB outlets while retaining the pre-existing power outlets. The refrigerators are slightly larger, and contain more compartments for storage. Additionally, the microwaves are designed to prevent unnecessary smoke alarms by automatically shutting off if food begins to smoke while cooking, Perrell says.
Albright experienced the most significant changes out of all the buildings. In fact, aside from the built-in closets, which were only removed from the triples, the rooms are entirely different. The rooms are now outfitted with a singular built-in shelf and a furniture set that is entirely movable. Perrell says this is because residence life found movable furniture was more important to most students than having more desk space. Perrell says the rooms were designed to avoid the moisture problems that were a major problem of Albright before. Some of the changes made to alleviate the old issues of mold and moisture included the removal of the carpet flooring and the addition of new heating and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. The HVAC systems have a sensor to detect if the room is occupied or not, and if no one is in the room for a significant period of time, the system will default to a temperature of 74, she says. The main purpose of this is to prevent the systems from running – and building up moisture – over breaks in the case that students forget to turn their systems off. Additionally, the small rooms near the center of the Albright halls have been converted to study rooms, creating two on each floor.
While there were originally plans in place to renovate Barnhardt over the summer to the same extent Albright was renovated, those plans did not come to fruition. According to Perrell, when the residence life team realized they only had time and money to fully renovate one of the two dorms, Albright’s larger capacity of students gave it priority over Barnhardt. Barnhardt however did get its heaters replaced with the ones used last year in Albright as a temporary fix to the moisture problem. These heaters are not run on boilers like the old Barnhardt heaters did.
The bathrooms in Hayes, which were previously the oldest residence hall bathrooms on campus, have been completely redone. Additionally, exhaust switches were added to the Byrum showers in order to alleviate problems with smell.
HBO’s principle donor, Jan Hall Brown, paid to have the lobby of her namesake dorm completely renovated, Perrell says. The wall between Rex’s Lair and the HBO lobby have been torn down to create one giant lobby and student lounge for all students on campus to use. The kitchen that was once in Rex’s Lair remains in the new HBO lobby for commuters and students in dorms without kitchens to use.
Perrell says that changes and renovations are often spurred by student feedback. “Let us know what you want to see,” she said. “We don’t know what to do if we don’t hear from students.”