As the amount of construction on campus suggests, times are changing for The University of Southern Mississippi. At the end of this academic year, Southern Miss will close down most of the dorms in the Freshman Quad.
For many students, the Freshman Quad was their first home-away-from-home. Jones, Pulley, Wilber, Bolton and Roberts Halls were synonymous with the freshman experience, sporting the classic cement walls, small twin beds and communal bathrooms.
In recent years, however, the facilities have become outdated. Many of the buildings have been in use since the college days of current students’ parents, or even before. Bolton Hall, the oldest of these buildings, was erected in 1954 according to the Southern Miss website. Other colleges, meanwhile, offered newer, larger and furnished dormitory options. These dorms had private bathrooms and walls made of drywall, not cement blocks.
For Southern Miss to be competitive, a change had to be made. McCarty Hall, named for major benefactor to the school, Oseola McCarty, opened in 2001. Century Park, now Century Park North, opened in Fall 2010, followed by Luckyday Leadership Hall and the new Vann Hall in Fall 2014.
These new spaces offer private bathrooms, more square footage and more furniture storage than previously available in the Quad dorms. They also provided the university with something basic but much needed space for students.
Over the past year, the university began transitioning away from the Quad. At this time, Wilber Hall and Jones Hall are open as residence halls, but by the end of the year, only Wilber is expected to remain in operation. The previous school year saw the last year of service for many of the functional remaining buildings in the Freshman Quad. What is to be done with the space?
Chris Crenshaw, director of the Physical Plant, has overseen many building projects completed while serving as the director of Student Housing and as the Physical Plant director. Currently assisting the creation of a Master Plan for the campus, Crenshaw knows that the Quad will remain in a state of limbo
for some time.
“Construction happens in order of priority for the university, and funding is very important,” Crenshaw said, noting that other expensive building projects are already underway on campus. Projects such as the construction of the new nursing building, the renovation of Joseph Green Hall and updates to Southern Hall will take place before the demolition of the Freshman Quad.
Crenshaw appeared certain that no major change will take place in the Quad for several years into the future. And for those holding out hope, no, there probably will not be a parking garage in the place of the dorms.
The Master Plan will bring good things to the university, Crenshaw believes. “It’s exciting. So many things are happening internally that will be great for students,” Crenshaw said, mentioning plans for paved parking lots, renovated classrooms and the potential for green spaces.
Katie Owens, a junior biological sciences major, lived in Wilber Hall her freshman year. For her, Wilber holds no particular sentimental value, despite spending a year there. Owens is, however, very vocal about what she would like to see in the space, should the university decide to remove the buildings: “A parking garage.”
While USM’s plans do not seem in line with Owens’ wishes, big changes still stand on the horizon for the school.