The future of Faculty/Staff Apartments

Letter to the campus community regarding Faculty/Staff Apartments

Dear Members of the Campus Community:

In recent weeks, there has been much discussion and concern regarding the future of Faculty/Staff Apartments. These apartments have historical significance to the University and are a part of our community that many have experienced as residents. I write to explain to you why these changes are necessary and, of equal importance, how the University will assist those who are being asked to move from Faculty Apartments.

Throughout 2007 — and even into 2008 — we have collected and analyzed much information to help us make decisions about Wake Forest’s future. Two linked questions were whether we would increase the size of the undergraduate student body and what implications growth would have on the campus infrastructure. During the fall semester of 2007, our examination of student housing and other student services space needs intensified as we considered various growth scenarios.

Two other factors were important in these deliberations. The Art and Science Group study confirmed that many of our older residence halls are in immediate need of updating, which is not surprising since they are now more than fifty years old. When prospective students visit the campus, these residence halls do not help us recruit them. Thus, we confirmed the need for additional space to house students while renovations are being done to the older residence halls.

The second factor was the growth in the student body as a result of the necessary budget initiative of a few years ago. We are now seriously over capacity in the residence halls and have been forced to use lounge space to house students.

Thus, even if there were no growth in the student population, we would at minimum have to renovate older residence halls and create more on-campus housing. Moreover, the question of how much the College might grow in the next decade is still under discussion, but the trustees have approved budgeting an increase of eighty students for this fall. Having a residential campus is a longstanding and important principle in the Wake Forest tradition, and we know we must be prepared to meet student housing needs.

We studied costs and timing. During the course of the fall, it became evident that building a new residence hall would consume at least eighteen months, which would mean that renovations to older residence halls would not be completed for at least three years. Thus, the prospect of converting Faculty/Staff Apartments surfaced as a solution.

This idea had to be explored thoroughly, because it carried many uncertainties. First, we needed to determine whether there were other possible alternatives for student housing. We also had to determine if conversion would be a sound financial option. Whether we should have alerted residents at the moment it became an idea can be argued, but what we do know now is that it is our best available option to meet urgent student housing needs.

Further, it would have been presumptuous to have alerted residents of the Faculty/Staff Apartments to the possibility of the change before our trustees had received reports concerning the apartments and related matters. The message to residents went out quickly after the February meeting of our Board of Trustees.

Because it is my practice to share information with you frequently, I wish that we had been in a position to give more than four or five months’ notice to residents, but it was not feasible with this combination of factors in play. Sometimes, the congruence of circumstances dictates the timing and sequence of decisions, and the housing challenge was such an occasion.

An additional point that gives context to this decision is the change in occupancy patterns in Faculty/Staff Apartments. Originally, many young faculty members chose to live there when they joined Wake Forest and remained for several years. Today, about twenty residents move into Faculty/Staff Apartments each year. After the first year, about a third of them move out, and after the second year, another third move out. Certainly, there are some residents who have lived there for longer periods, but there is much more mobility among the residents now than in earlier times.

I and others in the administration have met with residents and listened to their concerns. We want to be sensitive and generous in helping them work through the moving plans. Thus, we have decided on a phased renovation of Faculty/Staff Apartments, offering choices to Faculty/Staff Apartment residents as to when they move. For those who choose to move in May or June, 2008, we will pay full local moving expenses and provide a substantial stipend for the inconvenience that moving may cause them and their families. Those choosing to stay until May, 2009 will likely need to move within the complex as we consolidate building occupancy because of renovation timing. These internal moving expenses will also, of course, be paid by the University. I have asked Associate Provost Rick Matthews and Dr. Donna McGalliard, Director of Residence Life and Housing, to consult with residents on special needs related to the move, so that we can hold inconvenience to a minimum.

In addition, we plan to renovate Wake Forest-owned houses near the campus to accommodate visiting professors, so that the conversion of Faculty/Staff Apartments will not affect our ability to host visitors.

Some residents of the neighborhood near Faculty/Staff Apartments have expressed concerns about student behavior in the residence halls, after the conversion is complete. We believe that the presence of resident advisors and the increased capacity to monitor student behavior will help ensure that undergraduates are good neighbors. It is certainly easier to influence student behavior when they live on campus than when they live in off-campus neighborhoods. We will be diligent in our efforts to see that the neighbors are not adversely affected. We will give special attention to parking.

I am especially appreciative of the advice and assistance brought to this process by Professor David Coates, President of the University Senate, members of the University Senate executive committee, and Professor Gale Sigal, President of the Wake Forest chapter of AAUP.

I will continue to share information with you about this plan as it becomes more specific.


Nathan O. Hatch