Schwitzer Hall replacement plans finalized

JESSICA LEE | STAFF REPORTER | jelee2@butler.edu

By fall 2018, a new Schwitzer Hall will be built with a green space similar to the current Butler Mall between the new dormitory and Fairbanks Center.

The construction is scheduled to be finished by July 2018. The unnamed new housing project will be for first-year students with suite-style rooms like ResCo, the other first-year housing option.

Rich Michal, executive director of facilities, said they chose suite-style over Schwitzer’s former communal style because it will be easier for first-year students to adapt, especially if they have never shared a room or bathroom before.

“To ask those students to spend four years in a facility that was based on a concept and model in the 1950s probably isn’t the wisest thing,” Michal said.

Camille Ruff, first-year biology major, lives in a single at ResCo.

“I’ve always had my own room, so I never had to make that awkward switch between never having a roommate to having three other people,” Ruff said.

Next year, Ruff will be living in the Delta Gamma sorority house where, for the first time, she will share her bathroom with many other women.

“I definitely don’t know what to expect,” Ruff said. “I guess it’s exciting to hear from friends in Ross that say, ‘I would never have known this person or that person if I didn’t share a bathroom with them.’ I think that’s a really awesome way to meet different girls in the house. Maybe it’ll be strange. It’ll definitely be strange actually, but I’m excited for it.”

Maddie Coules, a first year on the pre-physician assistant track, also lives in ResCo. She said the suite-style bathroom situation is more convenient than communal style, but also more secluded.

“We don’t really have to leave our room for anything,” Coules said. “I know some people who do live in communal bathroom living in Ross, and they said they’ve met some of their friends going to the bathroom, washing their hands at the sink.”

Julie Vaughan, a sophomore on the pre-physician assistant track, lived in Schwitzer Hall her first year.

“We all go from most of us having our own rooms at home, maybe sharing with siblings, but now you’re sharing a bathroom with 30 girls,” she said. “It sounds so weird, but there are so many people I’ve met because we were brushing our teeth at the same time.”

By 2018, Butler University may not have communal style living at all.

Michal said depending on the size of the first-year class, Ross Hall may not be needed between ResCo and the new Schwitzer, which will have more beds than its older version. It will have about 650 beds. ResCo holds about 470 beds.

“We’ve got to determine if we mothball Ross, or are we gonna renovate it for other needs — whether it’s academic or administrative space — or are we gonna preserve some of it for residential, if not all of it,” Michal said. “There’s a lot of things that go into that: what our growth is going to be, what our beds need is going to be.”

To “mothball” Ross means putting it on hold and keeping it closed.

Ruff said if she could do her housing preferences again, she would choose to live in Ross.

“I kind of wish they’d at least have that community-style option,” Ruff said.

Although Coules said she would probably still choose ResCo, she agreed Butler should keep the classic communal style experience.

“Walking down the hallway in your towel with your little shower caddy seems like a stereotypical college thing,” Coules said.

Derek Sims, first-year and psychology pre-medicine major, moved from Fairview House into Ross.

He said he chose Ross because of its culture, occasionally called “Ross Love.”

“I love the random things that might happen, like someone, for some reason, dumps a can of shredded chicken into the shower, so once the drain clogs, a little piece of chicken bumps against your foot,” Sims said. “I love the random noises as soon as the 24-hour quiet hours started for finals, somebody got their sleigh bells and their duck call.”

Sims attributed its culture to the current residents and the many stories students share about their Ross experience.

“It pains me to think that Ross may be no more just because of the tradition and history that it holds on this campus,” Sims said. “But, I do understand that with the modern student, they want to have the finest living arrangements while at college, and if Butler wants to continue to be a forerunning university and have an innovative student life, then that’s the direction that they need to go.”

High school students interested in Butler often evaluate the residence life, and Michal said now that they have raised the bar with Fairview, they want to continue to enhance life on campus.

That does not just include the new dorm, but improving ResCo’s amenities. With the additional beds in the new Schwitzer, many of ResCo’s forced rooms can return to its previous lounge setting.

Sims, who did live in Fairview for his first half of the fall semester, said he understands the allure of living in a new dorm, especially as an incoming first year.

“I do hope it works out for those people, that they have the exciting experience of being one step above what they might get, or be forced to live in, at another college,” Sims said.

Over the next few years, Sims said Fairview will build its own culture and have its own stories, something prospective students can ask about.

“They can ask before they fill out the housing application, ‘Do I really like the culture that has been built up in Fairview, ResCo?’” Sims said. “‘Am I willing to try something new with going into the new Schwitz building?’”

Vaughan, the sophomore who lived in Schwitzer, said she was sad to see it go.

“That was your first home-away-from-home,” Vaughan said. “And by the end of first semester, you catch yourself saying, ‘Oh, I’m going back home!’ And you mean Schwitzer and not your home-home.”

Vaughan and a few of her friends managed to salvage a piece of the old building. She said there was a ditch under one of the gates caused by a machine, conveniently the size of a person.

“We felt so rebellious because we don’t do that kind of thing,” Vaughan said.

She is planning on either painting her piece or saying something about Schwitzer on it.

“We just wanted a piece of Schwitz because we lived there, and we wanted to document it, have a physical thing that says, ‘This is where we I lived,’” Vaughan said. “‘It’s not there anymore, but this is where I lived my first year of college.’ But right now, I just have a hunk of Schwitz.”

Besides the pieces that Vaughan and her friends escaped with, some of the limestone will be used for landscaping features and ornamental gates.

“What I’m really excited about is not only are we providing another great product, but what I’m really excited for is the bigger picture,” Michal said.

The “bigger picture” includes a whole new green space behind Schwitzer where its old limestone could be featured.

Michal called the area between Schwitzer and Fairbanks “no-man’s land.”

“The challenge we’ve always had is the drive between Schwitzer and Atherton, and that’s the main delivery route for the bookstore, Starbucks and food,” Michal said. “We want to try to separate those so there’d be a dedicated delivery drive but then on the other side of that, between Schwitzer and that, would be more of a pedestrian pathway similar to the one we put behind Fairview. So that can be safer and more aesthetically pleasing.”

The parking lot will still be directly behind Schwitzer, but there will be less vehicular access beyond that. Instead, the Starbucks’ patio area will be expanded.

“We have that substation back there, we’ve got these cooling towers back there, we’ve got this delivery service portion of this building facing the residential,” Michal said. “So I’m excited for the steps we’re going to be able to make to try to better screen and isolate that service part and enhance the green space.”

The electrical substation currently in the middle of Schwitzer’s parking lot will be moved between Sigma Nu and Alpha Phi. Butler is in the middle of updating its electrical telecommunications infrastructure, switching to a more modern looping structure, which will make it easier to isolate any problems and minimize possible power outages. The portion sectioned off in the Mall now is the last leg of the loop, which extends in front of Jordan Hall to Fairbanks.

The new substation will be finished over the summer.

For Vaughan’s first year, the Mall’s grass was torn up due to Fairview construction, and then they were not allowed to walk on the growing grass. Now, she said, having the Mall is really fun, with people playing frisbee or spreading out blankets.

“More green space would be nice,” Vaughan said. “And that area’s kind of weird anyway with the power station and the weird cement building that shoots off an unexplainable mist. I think it would be nice to clean up that area a little bit.”

Sims said Butler’s green space is what first attracted him to the university.

“Just being able to offer those picturesque college experiences is what’s going to be able to attract people to Butler to be potential students,” Sims said. “And once they are students, it just offers us more space to get out and see people that we may not otherwise see. Just having more availability for things like that is going to spurn a more closely connected and knitted campus and student body.”

Michal will hold a meet and greet about campus development on Feb. 2 at 5:30 p.m. in the Pharmacy 156.

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