The University announced last month that plans for a new residence hall on 20th and H streets will be paused to concentrate on renovating Thurston Hall.
For years, students have panned Thurston Hall as an inadequate, mold-infested and frankly dilapidated first-year residence hall. Thurston Hall houses more than 1,100 first-year students, which constitutes about 40 percent of the freshman class – which means masses of students have had to deal with these poor conditions for years.
But by focusing on renovating Thurston Hall rather than building a new residence hall, University President Thomas LeBlanc is following through on his campaign to improve the student experience.
It is the right decision to prioritize Thurston Hall for renovations, and the University should be lauded for not only providing students with updated rooms and working amenities – but also for committing to create suitable spaces where students can get together to participate in their community.
The TV lounge, the piano room and the basement serve as Thurston Hall’s primary community spaces. But these rooms have outdated furniture, poor lighting and do not lend themselves to student activity. The small rooms on the first floor and awkward layout in the basement feel like an afterthought and make students not want to spend their time in the common areas.
But having common space where students can gather and get to know one another is vital to offering a positive student experience.
Students have criticized the University for lacking community and said it is difficult to meet people on GW’s urban campus, so creating space where students can gather in the University’s largest residence hall is a positive step forward.
This update falls in line with other projects administrators have recently tackled to create more community space for students. The University renovated the first floor of the Marvin Center in 2017 to create a living room for students. Now students have benefited from extra space in the building and can hang out and study with friends without fear of making too much noise or bothering their roommates.
Officials also debuted a few outdoor common spaces this fall, and Dean of the Student Experience Cissy Petty spent time living in residence halls last semester and saw firsthand the need for more shared spaces for students to spend time with each other outside their residence hall rooms.
The student experience is inherently better when students have somewhere to gather outside of their rooms. Freshmen are thrust into an unfamiliar environment and forced to make new friends, and they need spaces that allow them to meet new people. First-year students face homesickness and can feel like they don’t belong as they adjust to life on campus, but these feelings could be eased if students had places to hang out outside of their residence hall rooms.
Students need significant additional space to get together outside of their rooms and create the community that some feel the University lacks. Interacting with other students and making memories is at the core of the student experience.
The University is right to prioritize renovating Thurston Hall in accordance with its campaign to improve the student experience, and its commitment to creating meaningful non-academic community spaces should be celebrated.
Galen Ekimov, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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