July 20, 2018

Delegates’ Agenda proposes WVA consolidation on Webster University Campus

The Delegates’ Agenda Housing Committee presented their idea for alternative on-campus housing options to Delegates’ Agenda last Wednesday. If the administration accepts their plan, current Webster Village Apartments (WVA) will be demolished and replaced.

Anna Dickherber is the Interim Director of Housing and Residential Life and served on the committee. Dickherber did research into the housing options on campus and the WVA after the Delegates’ Agenda meeting in the fall. She said she found the apartments were only meant to last around 20-25 years.

“[WVA] was built by a third party contract in 1998, and the way this particular group builds buildings is they build them for a short term,” Dickherber said. “They tear them down, and they expect the university to build something on top of them.”

Dickherber, along with student committee members Shaniquel Reece and Daniel Jackson, suggested developing a plan with the dean of students, housing staff and residents. Dickherber said the time for expensive maintenance orders, such as new roofing, cabinetry and appliances, quickly approached.

This chart shows the price ranges of the nearby apartment complexes, on and off campus.

This chart shows the price ranges of the nearby apartment complexes, on and off campus. (Graphic by Andrew McMunn)

Current options do not provide a wide enough range in the prices of housing, said Dickherber, and the layout of the WVA wastes space that could otherwise be used for student needs. Dickherber said the number of students requesting on-campus housing rises every year, but there  was not always enough space. She said campus could not expand, but finding more space was possible despite the limited campus size.

“The planning [of WVA], to be very frank, was poor in how they laid it out,” Dickherber said. “If we consolidate that area, there’s a lot more room there that we could be using for other university buildings, other areas, things students are asking for that we can’t do because we’re landlocked. We have the space. We just need to use it more efficiently.”

Other student concerns, like a need for more athletic and recreational areas which were also discussed at this year’s Delegates’ Agenda, could be met if the apartments were rebuilt and spaced, said Dickherber. Whether or not the enhancements would increase student tuition or fees would depend on how the university’s strategic planning committee planned the development’s budget, according to Dickherber.

The committee conducted a survey during room sign-ups last year and concluded students were primarily looking for affordable apartment-style housing. Dickherber said there are currently 278 bed-spaces in WVA and 489 returning residents for the 2018/2019 school year.

Because of lack of space and pricing options, Jackson said Webster risked losing students to off-campus housing, and students lost memorable campus life experiences. The survey conducted showed 63 percent of the 168 students found housing affordable, but Reece found the number unacceptably low.

“Even though a majority of students said [housing was affordable], we are at risk of losing 32 percent of students once their two year requirement of living on campus is up,” Reece said.

In the wake of their research, Jackson, Reece and Dickherber concluded having various pricing tiers would positively affect students. By rebuilding, Dickherber said more housing types could become available.  Instead of the WVA only offering four bedroom, two bedroom and studio spaces, Dickherber said they could be creative with the layout to provide different pricing options.

The ultimate goal, Dickherber said, was to bring more students into campus life. Like Jackson, Dickherber wanted to ensure student success and believed one way to do so was through housing opportunities.

“If [WVA] were to consolidate and build something different, we could have potentially more spaces which means more students would have the chance to be on campus, which is really what we’re going for, so students have the opportunity to be on campus because research shows it helps your GPA, your retention, your persistence to graduation,” Dickherber said.

Topics presented at Delegates’ Agenda

Four other committees presented topics other than housing at the Delegates’ Agenda.

The committee addressing academic program problems presented the issues surrounding advising and scheduling classes for double majors.

Another group suggested adding more athletic and recreational facilities, off campus if necessary.

The committee on communication issues addressed problems with the undergraudate website and the disconnect between university groups’ social media.

Lastly, the committee on financial matters proposed making books and Webster insurance more affordable.

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