Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Established 1874.

The Oberlin Review

Residence Life Proposes Changes to Housing, Dining

Erin Koo
The Office of Residence Life is currently reassessing its dining services.

The Office of Residence Life is planning significant changes to housing and dining at Oberlin. The office is working on creating a Housing Master Plan which will outline plans to renovate and modernize all of Oberlin’s residential facilities over the next 13 to 15 years.

Vice President and Dean of Residential Life and Auxiliary Services Mark Zeno explained that the new Woodland Street dorm, which is scheduled to be finished in 2025, will allow the College to make renovations to one residence hall a year offline for renovations, according to the proposed Master Plan. This will allow for much-needed improvements and modernization to facilities, Zeno said. The Master Plan will have to be approved by the Board of Trustees before it can go into effect. 

Zeno said that improvements would vary depending on the condition of the building. He said some buildings would see only small renovations, while demolition and replacement might be considered for others. Doors, windows, and electrical fixtures will likely be updated to meet the school’s sustainability goals. He said Village Housing and other residential buildings owned by the College — including those leased to the Oberlin Student Cooperative Association — would also be considered for renovation under the plan. 

“Many of [our facilities] haven’t really been touched since they were built back in the ’60s, other than the light carpet, paint [replacements], that’s about it,” he said. “The days of students bringing a record player and one bag to the residence hall rooms just doesn’t fit the needs anymore. So we’ve got to make sure that we can modernize these spaces.”

Zeno also mentioned that making sure facilities complied with ADA requirements was a top priority.  

“Some of our buildings don’t have elevators. Some of them have steps going in, so they’re not compliant,” he said. “[Our buildings] are actually only bound to the laws of the time. So if they were built in the ’50s, they only have to meet the laws of the ’50s. Well, the laws of the ’50s don’t really meet the needs of today’s students.”

Oberlin is also making changes to dining services as part of the dining master plan, which the College approved five years ago.

“The College is currently in the scenario and concept development stage of the campus dining facility plan effort,” Chief Facilities Officer Kevin Brown said. “Multiple dining facility scenarios are in review to include aspects of both centralized and distributed dining facility models.”

AVI Fresh Director of Operations Sarirose Hyldahl said that she had been in meetings with members of Residence Life regarding these changes. She said the role of AVI, which is contracted by the College to handle its dining needs, is that of a consultant, providing data and letting Residence Life know what plans are financially feasible. Hyldahl said they were still in the preliminary planning stages and did not feel comfortable discussing particulars.

Zeno said that one goal of the plan was to centralize dining in three locations — one on South Campus, one near Wilder Bowl, and one on North Campus — to maximize efficiency and cost-effectiveness. He stressed that all plans were in development and highly tenuous. 

“We’ve got to be honest, we’ve got too [many] dining locations,” he said. “It’s not sustainable. … It’s expensive to run all those locations, which again, keeps costs up for students. So how do we reduce costs for students and still provide the type of food that they want and improve it?”

Zeno said that for both dining and housing master plans, Residence Life had sought to get student input through representatives of the Student Senate and the Dean’s Student Advisory Board. 

College second-year Cristal Ramos said that in her capacity as Student Senate Housing and Dining Committee Chair she had participated in monthly meetings with Residence Life to discuss changes. An overview of the broad outline of the two master plans was also presented to the entire Senate at one of their meetings. 

“I see myself being like a student representative voice,” she said. “They’ll share like, ‘Oh, we want to have such and such [a] thing done. What do we think?’ And I’ll be like, ‘Well, students feel this type of way about this thing.’”

Ramos said that she felt Residential Life was receptive to input from the Student Senate.

“I truly believe that they genuinely do have the best interests at heart for students and what students want,” she said.

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