As of this summer, Ely Hall will close for renovations, leaving the First-Year Triangle without one of its cornerstones. While the exact date of Ely’s reopening has not yet been solidified with Student Life, it is expected to last the entire 2017-18 school year. However, this is only the latest in a series of alterations made to the dormitory building throughout the years.
According to Ernie Stufflebean, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life at William Jewell College, Ely has been in a consistent process of renovation for several years. Most notably, the shower and restroom facilities were renovated this past summer, and new lighting systems were recently installed in the first and second floors. Therefore, this latest set of improvements will largely focus on the third floor, but all sleeping rooms will still be impacted.
Most renovations at the College take place in the summertime, making the year-long changes to Ely Hall especially visible for students. Rumors have abounded about the circumstances behind Ely’s closing, and many students have wondered if it is a sign of financial trouble for Jewell. However, even though Jewell’s first-year class will be smaller than usual, Stufflebean sees no potential threats to the College’s standing.
“This is an opportunity to make changes without impacting students,” Stufflebean says.
The smaller class sizes are, in part, what will make the year-long change possible, as Browning and Eaton are currently large enough to accommodate all incoming first-years on their own. In addition, the Ely lobby will still be open to the public and used for first-year events, much like sororities and fraternities are already using it to spread awareness to new students.
Like the summer projects in the past, renovations will be handled in-house by the trained Facilities Management staff at Jewell. However, spreading it out into a year-long process will ensure maximum care, according to Stufflebean. Without the rush to get the residence hall open before students return, multiple changes can be made in a single step rather than spread out over several years. Jones Hall will still be undergoing the normal summer renovations, but improving Ely will be the main focus for the College.
While Ely’s health center, fitness room and offices will stay open throughout the reconstruction, other members of the Ely staff will be relocated to other parts of the College, says Kelley Huff, Ely’s current Resident Director. Their new positions are currently unknown, but they will continue to be a part of the campus community.
The floor, ceiling and lighting in each room will be redone and in some cases completely replaced. Perhaps the largest proposed change to Ely Hall is its flooring, which is currently covered by carpeting. Stufflebean has suggested switching to a laminate-type floor made out of linoleum, similar to the dorms in Semple Hall. Semple’s floors tend to have a positive reception with students, who find them to be relatively low-maintenance since they do not require much upkeep. Students can choose to customize the room with rugs, and the laminate floor reduces the risk of allergens entering the room. While Stufflebean says switching to this variety of flooring will be more expensive, he asserts that it will serve the College better in the long run, since it has a longer life expectancy than carpeting.
In addition, Ely’s interior will be completely repainted, but one of the features that makes it a student favorite will not be changed. The residence hall’s walls, which are covered in a burlap-like material, allow for easy customization of the room—thumbtacks and tape can be used without damaging the wallpaper like in other Jewell dorms. Student Life understands that this is one of the major reasons for Ely’s popularity among first-years, and no plans for switching wall materials have been announced.
“Students appreciate the freedom,” Stufflebean says.
While the Ely project has been on slate for longer than Jewell’s branding operation, it could be likely that these changes will further back Dr. Elizabeth MacLeod Walls’ course of improving the school. Though no huge changes will be coming to Ely—as Stufflebean has dismissed the commonly-spread rumor of a Jacuzzi being installed within the residence hall—it will nevertheless serve as the cornerstone of Jewell’s constant cycle of improvement.