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Mary Lyons to be site for summer housing despite student concerns

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The Mary Lyons residence hall has been designated to be the summer residence hall for all students who will be staying on campus this summer. Many students expressed concerns or questions over this decision by the administration since Mary Lyons neither on campus nor air-conditioned.

“Historically, Mary Lyons was used as summer housing in large part due to the number of students it can hold (100+), the building’s proximity to a parking lot, and the large breakfast room.  A few years ago, in advance of a multi-year summer renovation project, summer housing was transitioned to temporary locations in Parrish, Mertz, and Willets,” said the Assistant Dean and Director for Student Engagement Rachel Head.

Alexandra Ye ’19, who will be working in Philadelphia in the upcoming summer, expressed her concern for living in Mary Lyons.

“I’m actually working in Philly, but I think I’m hoping to live near or on campus for the ease of finding a place and being around friends,” said Ye.

Her main concern is that Mary Lyons is too far away from the SEPTA station in addition to being so far from main campus.

“I’m not sure how I feel about living in ML — I’ve heard many negative things about the meal plan, and it’s less conveniently located than other apartments in the Ville for catching the train,” said Ye.

Daniel Lai ’17, a current senior who stayed on campus for the past two summers, also expressed concern in terms of the meal plan.

“I wasn’t really able to use it because the hours were limited, and I would always leave campus for work before meals could be used and would come back on campus after Sharples had already closed. I was able to use the Points by going to the coffee bar before work every day,” Lai said.

Mary Lyons has a kitchen, but living there is not going to make Sharples more accessible to students. However, a better meal plan will be available this summer, according to Head.

“Isaiah has been working closely with Dining Services to identify a partial meal plan that can better meet the needs of students who participate in campus employment, summer research, and off-campus opportunities.  I believe the new plan is a combination of scheduled meals and off-campus Ville points. More information on that plan will be shared by Dining Services in the near future,” said Head.

Lai also expressed that he did not understand the administration’s decision this year. For the past two years, he stayed in Mertz and Willets. Mertz has air-conditioning in each individual room. Willets, while it does not have air-conditioning in the rooms, had two kitchens that were available for the students to use as well as an air-conditioned lounge.

“I really don’t understand why the administration would choose to use ML as the summer dorm this year and in years previous to 2015. It’s incredibly inconvenient for people working on-campus as well as off-campus. It’s also frustrating for move-in / out and moving things in and out of storage. Not to mention further from groceries [at] Giant and Target,” said Lai.

Assistant Director of Residential Community Isaiah Thomas explained that this decision was made collaboratively by the Office of Student Engagement and Facilities Management.

“Every year, the Office of Student Engagement works closely with Facilities to assess the dorms that are available for summer housing,” said Thomas.

He then further explained Facilities’ role in the decision-making process.

“The summer period is when Facilities completes renovations of the various dorms on campus while they are unoccupied. One of the reasons Mary Lyons was chosen was due to the fact that Facilities completed a two-year renovation over the summer[s] of 2015 and 2016. Prior to the renovation, Mary Lyons was traditionally used for Summer Housing,” wrote Thomas.

Thomas also indicated there are other factors that are taken into consideration, such as dorms with the fewest numbers of seniors, the housing needs for Alumni Weekend, student feedbacks, and so on.

The current distribution of the senior class is important when determining which residence hall will be used for summer housing.  In order to get the most time in Swarthmore during the summer, almost all students wish to move directly into their summer rooms from their spring rooms.  In order to accommodate this, we cannot use a dorm space that has a high [percentage] of seniors nor can we use locations that house alums during Alumni Weekend [or] summer camps or are due for summer renovations,” said Head.

Head explained that Mary Lyons is the most suitable place in order to accommodate as many students as possible for faculty research, off-campus employment, and other individual student experiences.

“[We] need to use a building that has the capacity to meet a number of different needs and has relatively flexible space.  Mary Lyons offers spaces with gendered and gender-neutral bathrooms, has a low number of seniors, which allows for early move-in, has parking close to the building, has recently been renovated, includes tile floors, and has a large kitchen space that can help supplement the summer meal plan,” said Head.

Finally, Thomas explained the future plans for summer housing next year.

“Set to open in Fall 2017, we feel that the [new] PPR Apartments will be an ideal location for summer housing in the future with the suite style set-up, kitchens in the suites, air conditioning, and large shared lounge space,” wrote Thomas.

There are a lot of restrictions in the choosing process of summer housing. According to the administration, Mary Lyons, while being far away from the campus, is the most suitable residence hall for the students who are staying on campus for the summer. Meanwhile, the administration hopes a change in the summer meal plan will improve the experience of the summer experience at Swarthmore.

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