RMU lacks a key college quality
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Students and visitors to Robert Morris University might notice something a little different about the residence halls at the Moon Township campus—there are no common areas or lounges.
There are only two residence halls with common rooms, Salem and Yorktown, each of which is only accessible by students that live in that hall. Although traditional halls had common rooms when built, the areas were re-purposed to be used by students as dorm rooms due to the continuously increasing enrollment at RMU.
“It makes the place feel a little more like a prison,” said freshman Shane Danyo. “There’s nowhere really nice to just hangout other than the cafes.”
According to Anne Lahoda, the director of Residence Life at RMU, the initial issue stems back to 2011 when the university purchased the old Pittsburgh International Airport Holiday Inn, which now serves as Yorktown Hall. Robert Morris was renting out floors in the hotel for students to live in prior to 2011. When the school made the move to purchase the building at an Allegheny County Sheriff sale—a public auction of property repossessed to repay an unpaid debt—for $10.2 million, the building began to house 502 students.
“We have always had a lot of students that have been interested in living on campus,” said Lahoda. “We did not have enough space so we (RMU) started renting rooms at the Holiday Inn.”
Even though the purchase made Yorktown Hall the largest dormitory on campus, enrollment continued to rise, forcing the university to close the lounges.
Aside from dorms, students can relax, study or hangout in various spaces in Nicholson, Jefferson and Wheatley.
“It definitely is something that isn’t ideal, we don’t like where it is right now,” said Lahoda.
Students at Robert Morris share a similar feeling with Lahoda about the lack of common areas and lounges.
“I think that would be great,” said freshman Meicah Antoine-Betrand. “It would be easier to meet with everyone in the hall for events.”
Clubs and organizations use classrooms and other meeting spaces such as the ballroom at Yorktown for their committee meetings. Fraternities and sororities also host weekly meetings that are usually in a classroom.
Freshman Margo Gamble is indifferent on the issue. Gamble, who belongs to the Resident Hall Association on campus, believes that it would be nice to have an area to come together and hangout, but it is not a necessity.
“It would be nice to have them, but I can deal without them,” said Gamble.
With the construction of the new Student Recreation and Fitness Center, which is expected to open by the time students return for the fall 2017 semester, the fate of the Jefferson building is unknown.
“I am not sure who will utilize it, but there will be additional lounge space there,” said Lahoda.
Some other renovation projects that are going underway include the revamping of the old restaurant in Yorktown which is currently used for storage. According to Lahoda, the renovation will be a student-friendly design. Lahoda did not provide details on whether the kitchen would be utilized.
Although currently, the university lacks common areas and lounges for students to connect with one another, RMU has plans to renovate as well as create lounges and recreation space in the near future. With Yorktown getting a facelift as well as Jefferson being converted into a variety of common spaces, students will have a place to congregate.