Commentary: State Can Use Break to Improve Dorms

The West Virginia State University campus is home to three student dorm halls, Keith Scholars Hall, Dawson Hall, and Sullivan Hall.

They normally house nearly 400 students. Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, dorm students were asked to evacuate the dorm halls and return to their homes for the remainder of the semester. Most students were away on spring break when State sent e-mails to advise students to not return to the campus.

Though evacuation was not required for students who stayed over spring break, only the students with extraordinary circumstances were permitted to stay on campus through the semester. 

With the displacement of so many students, the university and the Residence Life staff must take advantage of the extra time to update, disinfect and prepare the dorms for future occupants before the start of the 2020-21 school year.  

Keith Scholars Hall, constructed in 2014, is WVSU’s newest residence hall. The suite-style dorm hall cost more than $2 million to construct, and it requires an electronic key card to enter the building and individual dorm rooms.

Keith houses 291 students. It replaced a basketball court and two other dorms. It was built within a year, and some cite problems with unsymmetrical door arrangements and faulty electrical doors. Many alumni say the construction of Keith “was a mistake” and that it “keeps students in their rooms.”

Students deal with wi-fi problems and a lack of hot water, which has a temperature above lukewarm. Despite its problem, students favor Keith Scholars Hall.

Some say Keith has a home-feeling, but many students complain they want a more traditional dorm college experience.

Sullivan Hall can offer those students that environment, but it is ordinarily unused. Sullivan has traditional college dorm communal bathrooms. It is a double-winged building with rooms on both sides. Sullivan Hall is the biggest dorm hall on WVSU’s campus. It is larger than the other dorm halls combined. Typically, it is only used as an overflow dorm.

Quick observations suggest Sullivan Hall, though it is unused, appears to be in decent shape. The dorm rooms are spacious. Some rooms have balconies, and the beds seem to be three times as comfortable as the beds in the other residence halls. That leaves students wondering why the dorm hall is unused.  

Dawson Hall is the oldest of the three dorms and houses 98 occupants. It appears to need a deep cleaning and update. It was built in 1903 and was the first female housing hall. It was then reconstructed twice, once in 1923 and then in 1999. It is currently 21 years old and is in desperate need of alterations. 

Students who previously lived in Dawson Hall and were displaced by coronavirus have filed several complaints about their rooms and bathrooms, including mold, unreliable and or broken heating and cooling systems and damaged and hard-to-open dressers and broken furniture. Not only are students concerned about their personal space, they also are concerned about the elevator. Students describe shaking, occasional flickering lights and sounds of running water when riding in the elevator. That is especially concerning because the elevator inspection sticker appears to be expired. 

With additional time, and the scare and outbreak of the coronavirus, the residence team needs to improve the dorms for the upcoming school year. That includes a deep cleaning of all the residence halls, repairing necessary equipment and furniture and painting and retiling to get rid of mold. 

For WVSU to thrive, it must take care of its students. That starts with taking care of their housing needs. 

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