Reinvest in student housing by renovating old dorms

Faleha Quadri, Columnist

As a freshman at UT, campus life has been characterized by one constant: dorms. Widely recognized as social spaces, I routinely visited many of my friends in these residence halls. 

As I walked through these areas, I became aware of some noticeable differences between them. Jester’s numerous elevators, newly renovated bathrooms, lobbies and laundry rooms were a stark contrast to some of the older dorms, which had outdated appliances and no elevators. 

It is important that the University increases their efforts in renovating some of the older dorms to create a more equitable living environment for students living in on-campus housing.

In 2019, Jester West underwent a $56 million renovation. Although Jester is home to many students living on campus, it is also important that the University equally invests in other on-campus housing. 

For example, the Honors Quad contains some of the oldest dorms on campus and houses around 500 students. However, they have not received major investments or renovations to the same degree as some of the newer dorms on campus.

It is important that all students receive a fair housing experience regardless of where they end up living, and it is the University’s responsibility to ensure that happens.  

Don Ates, director of residential facilities, spoke to the feasibility of these renovations and others that are already planned to take place in the near future. 

“With (renovations concerning) the older dorms, students come to us with feedback and suggestions, and we take it and put it into consideration and do a building assessment that helps us with figuring out what is the feasibility of doing certain things in our building,” Ates said. 

Ates spoke about renovations that have taken place in the Honors Quad. 

“We have done renovations over the last eight years in some of our Honors Quad,” Ates said. “Some of the mechanical spaces where we’ve done a lot of renovation, and we are currently in the process of renovating community spaces and student lounges in our residence halls. We also get students involved and based on feedback, we decide how to prioritize a project.”

Although progress is being made in renovations, many students have brought up concerns associated with their student living situation.

Ganga Prasanth, a psychology freshman residing at Moore-Hill, felt as though there could be more done to ensure that all students have a fair housing situation at the University. 

“The biggest (amenity I wish I had) is definitely elevators, because we do not have any elevators in Moore-Hill or BRP, which is Brackenridge, Roberts (and Prather),” Prasanth said. “They’re too old, so they don’t have elevators and that could really be a hassle for people who are living on higher floors.”

While constantly making adjustments in these spaces is not always easy, it is important work. 

“I want the best living conditions, everything fair and equitable as possible, so always keep that in mind,” Ates said. “Students mean a lot to me and my facility’s organization. We always have the motto, ‘put residents first’ and we do take everything they say seriously.” 

If student housing complaints are as important to the University as they say they are, it is critical that they listen to the student body and invest in older dorms to create an environment where student’s needs are fulfilled. 

“It’s really not that equitable if I’m being honest, because you don’t know what you’re going into until you’re actually on campus … so I definitely think they can improve their system to at least be a bit more fair for all students,” Prasanth said. 

Quadri is a Plan II and business freshman from Austin, Texas.