On Feb. 18, THE Lewis & Clark Board of Trustees approved a measure to renovate the Stewart and Odell Residence Halls during the 2022-23 academic year.
This decision was made public to the student body in a Feb. 22 email from Director of Campus Living Benjamin Meoz. The renovation of Stewart and Odell has been under consideration since 2019, as a part of the 2019 Facilities Master Plan. However, the Master Plan originally indicated a total demolition of Stewart, Odell and Akin (SOA).
The SOA Area Director (AD) Brendan Brunner described the challenges and quirks of the older buildings, citing thin walls, poor water sealing and difficulties with bug screens as particular issues. According to a statement from the Campus Living Office, these issues will be addressed during the renovations. The project will involve the construction of brand new all-gender restrooms, updated lounge and kitchen facilities, new windows and insulation, and updated climate control features that include cooling and improved air quality.
Another critical area of improvement will be to bring the dated halls up to Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
Brunner emphasized the central role of accessibility in the planning of the new construction. Along with updated student amenities, the renovated Stewart and Odell are also set to include new street-level office space for the Office of Campus Living, improving on the previous basement office arrangement.
Although the renovations are effectively set in stone by the Board’s February decision, the actual completion of the modernization is still a while out: Construction is set to begin over the 2022-23 winter break, with completion scheduled by the end of summer 2023.
According to Meoz, Stewart and Odell represent around 10% of beds on campus.
Several measures will be taken to address the issues associated with the decrease in capacity. First, the practice of turning double rooms into triples in residence halls will be continued through the 2022-23 academic year. Second, those traveling abroad during the Spring 2023 semester, or otherwise seeking fall-only on-campus housing, will be housed in Stewart and Odell to minimize disruption.
Despite the unusual circumstances, both Brunner and Assistant Director of Overseas & Off-Campus Programs Kaitlin Sommerfeld expressed enthusiasm about the opportunities provided by the housing of study abroad students in Stewart and Odell. One particular area of excitement surrounds the establishment of the Travel Lounge Living Learning Community (LLC) in the hall, which will seek to prepare students for their upcoming travels by building community bonds.
“We are really excited about the Travel Lounger LLC,” Sommerfeld said via email. “We think it will give overseas students opportunities to build connections with other study abroad students in ways we haven’t been able to facilitate before.”
According to Brunner, the implementation of the new LLC will coincide with an effort to revamp RA involvement and student engagement with LLCs during the coming academic year, an effort that will also impact the Holistic Wellness LLC, which will be relocated from Stewart to Copeland Hall during renovations.
“You’ll get to know the people you’re traveling with before you leave,” Brunner said.
While most of the displacements and disruptions resulting from the renovations will be temporary, the Overseas Office hopes that some changes will continue after construction wraps up.
“We hope (the LLC) is something we can continue beyond the Fall 2022 Semester,” Sommerfeld said.
However, not everyone is excited about this arrangement. Julia Heidke ’24 expressed concern about being housed in SOA next year due to her studying abroad in Ireland during spring 2023. Heidke was looking forward to living in Juniper Hall next year, and is now worried about her living situation if her spring study abroad is canceled.
“The idea of living in a construction zone, trying to do classes that I have to pass and have to do well on to still go on this trip,” Heidke said. “It’s stressful, it’s a daunting prospect.”
Heidke feels both unaware and unprepared on what to expect when she moves into SOA.
“I was so mad,” Heidke said. “I waited so long and I feel like I did my time in dorms. I was here for COVID all of freshman year in Manzi, I was here all of sophomore year in Alder, I went through it. I earned that nicer, quieter, and cleaner, upperclassman and student housing, like Juniper and Holmes.”
Heidke reportedly feels shortchanged by these plans as she, and other LC students, were not consulted about these living requirements.