Freshmen projection may spur changes at Augustana
Bergsaker and Solberg Halls will likely no longer be the lone on-campus housing option for freshmen next academic year.
Because of a large projected freshmen class, the first floor of Tuve Hall has been reserved for next year’s freshmen, according to Director of Campus Life Corey Kopp.
Kopp said Bergsaker and Solberg can ideally fit 420-426 students, with one room left open on each wing in each dorm to accommodate possible roommate conflicts and just to give students room to breathe.
“You want enough space that people don’t feel like they’re sitting on top of each other all the time,” Kopp said.
President Rob Oliver currently forecasts the class to feature about 460 students.
Dean of Students Jim Bies said years ago Augustana had a class that large and managed to keep everyone in the traditional freshmen dorms by converting day rooms into dorms rooms and squeezing three students into some larger rooms.
That won’t happen this time around.
“We’ll know more when we meet with the admissions office again in early May, but we think this coming year we will have outgrown Bergsaker and Solberg,” Bies said.
Kopp said Tuve was the natural landing spot for freshmen in part because its first-floor day room divides the floor, allowing men to live in one wing and women in the other—keeping the traditional freshmen format somewhat intact.
He also said East Hall was off the table because it is consistently the first choice for upperclassmen on room selection day.
“I honestly think my tires would have been slashed within minutes,” Kopp said of possibly designating East.
Current Tuve resident Dan Block, a senior, said he dislikes the idea of freshmen in Tuve for both upperclassmen and freshmen.
“I don’t like it,” Block said. “I don’t like it just because Tuve is the quiet dorm, and it generally is. Like no offense to most freshmen or anything, but freshmen tend to be louder more often … it just seems like it’d be a huge change.”
Kopp acknowledged it would be a big change. He added that it’s a necessary one, as the students will need beds somewhere.
Campus Life will try to establish a theme that sells incoming freshmen on the opportunity of a nontraditional first-year living experience. Currently, Kopp envisions two possible themes: one based on faith and vocation, the other centered on service and leadership.
It would be the first themed housing for freshmen, a concept popularized in Augustana’s many theme houses for upperclassmen.
“If we can create a cool idea, a fun concept, do some programming that’s going to be specific that helps students find that there’s some value in living there … I think we’ll find enough interest,” Kopp said. “We should be able to pull folks from the south side to make the numbers work.”
Block said he worried that freshmen divided on campus—most on the south side, some on the north—would create a lasting dissonance between classmates. Kopp said he and his staff have considered that and will do their best to ensure it doesn’t happen. Still, he admitted that it could.
“That’s going to be a challenge, without question,” Kopp said. “We’ve got to find a way to get people in both communities so they can feel like they’re connected on some level.
“That said, I think it’s OK that there’s something to a first-year community that might be a little different than what we’ve seen before and may provide folks a chance to form some connection within that, too. We’ll see how that plays out.”
Kopp and Bies made clear that improvements will begin in Tuve this summer with modular furniture being inserted to make double rooms possible on the first floor. It is the first step in Tuve’s facelift which Block, Kopp and Bies agreed is sorely needed.
If enrollment continues to grow as projected in the Horizons 2019 plan, freshmen housing will be the first of many changes in the housing program and the Augustana community as a whole.
Kopp and Bies said the campus community needs to have an honest conversation about whether, going forward, rising seniors and juniors will continue to receive first choice in the housing selection process or if sophomores get priority.
After all, sophomores are required to live on campus, and Kopp said it might not be fair to keep them on a waiting list. Bies agreed.
“It’s a question that’s going to be out there, and there’s no answer to the question yet, but it will need to be a conversation that we have as a campus community, and when I say that, the students are certainly going to have input into the conversation next year,” Bies said. “I think the larger question is can our current program, as it’s currently built, sustain increased enrollment going into the future? I don’t think [it can].”
Bies said that although the current housing program might not last years into the future, he doesn’t want to see a campus that houses only freshmen and sophomores.
“I think we’d have to take a real hard look at what Augustana would look like [if that were the case],” Bies said. “Juniors and seniors really have a qualitative value on this campus, and I just, boy, we just simply can’t allow space limitations and increasing enrollment to keep us from keeping that important quality of community life on campus.”