Augie abandons its worst residence halls

Chloe Baxter

Augustana recently announced the decision to renovate Erickson Residence Hall in the 2023-2024 school year. This is a choice that excites students who will have improved air conditioning and plumbing when the construction is complete. 

Other students lament the decision to renovate Erickson instead of Andreen or Seminary, two First-Year residence halls. 

Rather than students suffering from inconsistent air conditioning, these residence halls lack it and have many other issues.

Having been built in 1937 and 1923, respectively, Andreen and Seminary are reaching their 100-year mark, while Erickson was built more recently in 1966

The primary issues in Erickson are inconsistent heating, air conditioning, and ventilation. In contrast, Andreen and Seminary lack air conditioning altogether, have inconsistent heating and poor ventilation as a result of these factors. 

Mold has also been provided as a reason for these renovations in Erickson, but if Andreen and Seminary have similar if not worse ventilation issues, the residence halls have mold as well.  

The decision to renovate a newer building that is in less need of repair is mind-boggling. 

Students in the Andreen and Seminary dormitories live without access to the same amenities that are being cited as needing maintenance.

Many First-Year students travel from all over to attend Augie and begin their college experience, only finding themselves assigned to the century-old Andreen and Seminary Residence Halls. 

In a recent article published by the Observer, Kirk Anderson, vice president of administration and chief financial officer, said he did not view the campus residence halls “[…] as better or worse, just different.”

Anderson and other college officials renovate Erickson disregarding buildings in greater need of repair that lack the amenities that Erickson has, while experiencing similar issues with heating, ventilation and plumbing. 

As a Community Advisor (CA), I have worked the desk in Andreen and Seminary, and I have been privy to residents and other CAs voicing concerns about the living conditions in the buildings. 

Seminary CAs, just in our meeting last Tuesday, voiced concerns about broken smoke detectors jeopardizing the safety of students during a fire alarm.

Yes, students can file work orders to get them repaired, but students should be able to live in campus housing without being held accountable for the college’s mistakes. 

Erickson certainly does need repairs and renovations, but Andreen and Seminary are worse. 

There are financial motivations for choosing to remodel Erickson rather than Andreen and Seminary, which may require more funding and more renovations. The renovations in Erickson are being funded by the state of Illinois through a grant. 

It is being done one wing at a time, preventing large-scale housing issues with students. Augustana likely wants to continue to offer First-Year residences as a housing option for incoming students, as closing even a floor in Andreen or Seminary would prevent the college from assigning students to those locations. 

Over the past few years, the rate of student enrollment has dropped sharply in undergraduate institutions. Augustana’s enrollment fell from 17.72% in 2019-2020 to 13.99% in 2021-2022. 

If Augustana chose to renovate its First-Year residence halls for safety reasons and removed them as options for students, this may concern potential applicants. 

Failing to renovate Andreen and Seminary is not a solution to the problems that students face while residing there or those faced by the college. Instead, it only compounds the issues, making them far worse. 

Even if student enrollment isn’t impacted, students who experience life in Andreen and Seminary will not recall these memories fondly. Residing in these residence halls is not only uncomfortable, but puts students at risk. 

The decision to renovate Erickson will benefit students but to a lesser extent. Failing to renovate these First-Year residences perpetuates safety issues and endangers the well-being of current and incoming students.