By Katie Ellington, Staff Writer
While female dorm rooms and Aldersgate apartments sit emptier than full capacity, university staff have chosen to reduce off-campus housing options for next year.
The President’s Cabinet has decided to close Kenyon House for the 2018-2019 school year. The administration is also considering closing the Spanish House, but no final decision has been made. According to Glenn Hamilton, the vice president of business affairs, the reason for the decision is lower occupancy rates for female students.
“The dorms and Aldersgate are not full, so these houses could be used for other things,” Hamilton said via email.
Moving students into the dorms also aligns with the university’s dedication to community.
“That’s one of the beautiful parts about coming to Asbury—you don’t isolate freshmen into one hall,” said Joe Bruner, the associate dean of resident life. “I really do think that’s a big part of why the community is such a strong factor.”
Although all nine Kenyon residents are seniors, many are disappointed the house is closing.
“It has quite a legacy of amazing Asbury women living there,” Kenyon House resident Faith Neece said. “I’m so sad we can’t pass that on to future Asburians.”
While the goal of requiring students to live in residence halls is to build community, many house residents found the setting to be just as conducive to building relationships. They have also taken the opportunity to host friends who miss the cozy atmosphere of their home.
“Obviously you can have incredible, close-knit friendships in a dorm living situation, but being in a house just amps up the closeness of community,” said senior Anna Leigh Morrow, a Spanish house resident. “Three of my dearest friends from my time at college have come from the Spanish House.”
The Kenyon House women agree.
“It’s much more intimate living with these women and caring for a house with them,” said Sarah Browning. “We get to see each other grow. We also get to see each other’s struggles firsthand, which is rough, but also good. It’s been amazing to see how supportive our little community is when one of us is struggling.”
The residents of Kenyon and the Spanish House also say living in houses has prepared them for post-graduate life.
“I think colleges and universities should have residences like this available because of the ‘adulting’ practice they provide,” said senior Grace Wilson. “I think that I will transition into life after college better having had the experience of living in Kenyon house.”
Among other things, the residents of these houses clean and take care of the house interiors and cook many of their meals.
“I love that I get to cook my own food,” said Browning. “Living in a house forces me to budget in a way that I did not have to before.”
The Spanish House also offers an educational component to its residents and to campus. Residents are required to speak Spanish in the house, which is used to host Spanish club events, like movie nights and fiestas.
“Because we’re all Spanish speakers here, we’re committed to helping each other grow in the language and in our love for Hispanic culture,” said Morrow. “It’s a huge contribution to what you take away from your time as a Spanish major here at Asbury.”
Students and professors alike have seen the growth in language fluency that living in the Spanish House brings.
“I have always seen improvement in Spanish for the women who live there,” said Shelby Thacker, the chair of the ancient and modern languages department. Thacker often mentions the house to prospective students to demonstrate the vitality of Asbury’s Spanish program.
The Spanish House has been a part of Asbury for many years; the first Spanish House opened in a duplex behind Johnson in 1998. This building was later torn down for the construction of Kinlaw library, and the Spanish House moved to its current location on Akers Drive.
Although the Spanish House has historically been part of an immersion experience at Asbury, the Kenyon House was opened initially to deal with overflow. In fact, the challenge of filling Asbury’s female residence halls is a recent one. According to archived issues of the Asbury Collegian, many residents were forced to live off-campus due to overcrowding.
During the 1993-1994 school year, women were housed in the Johnson guest house, as well as “an off-campus house near Kresge.” A year later, some students were asked to live in houses or with professors.
During the 1998-1999 school year Kresge, Glide Crawford and Aldersgate (which then consisted of four buildings) were at max capacity. Larger basement rooms were assigned up to five residents and resident assistants got roommates for the first time. In the spring of 2000, there were 60 students living off campus due to a lack of housing. The fifth and sixth units of Aldersgate were built that fall.
According to Bruner, Asbury planned to build another residence hall across the green from Kresge. The blueprints were set aside with the 2008 recession, when undergraduate enrollment plateaued. While traditional undergraduate enrollment has since remained “steady,” it hasn’t increased enough to warrant the construction of new on-campus housing—or keeping campus-owned houses.
Sarah Baldwin, vice president of student development, said filling on-campus housing is a better use of Asbury’s resources.
“We want to be good stewards financially. It is better for our whole campus to make sure that residence halls are as full as possible,” she said. “The best way to serve students is to be the most efficient in managing our funds.”
Photo by Tonya Gibson