From West to The Woods


Susan Arnold

In the last few years, there has been debate over the demolition of original residence halls to build new ones. As the president of Reel House in West Hall my freshman year, I was a part of the debate from the start.

During that time, I couldn’t imagine what the residents of Payne Hall were going through; West had become my home, and the thought of it being torn away shattered my heart. Since my dad worked in construction and contracting all my life, I had been taught to renovate before building new, and the construction of The Woods broke that very rule.

My sophomore year, I was the hall president of West, and as a leader on campus, I was able to be more involved with The Woods than most. I was granted frequent updates, a tour at the end of winter and gave criticism and feedback to designers and contractors. When I was told that Phase II of the project would open the winter semester of 2018, I was concerned if there were enough students to fill the building.

A few months later, when I received an email saying the director of Housing and Residence Life would be holding a meeting in West Hall, my heart caught in my throat. I knew in my gut what the email meant; I couldn’t even make myself go to the meeting. For those who don’t know, West Hall will be closing at the end of this semester, and residents will be moved to Birch Hall and Cedar East Hall.

About a month after the news was out, I went through resident advisor and community advisor selection and a few weeks later received a call from the assistant director of Residence Life. I was shocked to hear her ask, “How would you like to be an RA in The Woods?”

I still believe that renovation should be attempted before building new, but I love living in The Woods. There’s excitement to behold in building a new community, seeing how others
contribute, forming new friendships, developing house and hall pride and creating a family. I’m honored to be a part of something that hasn’t happened since Magers Hall was renovated from an academic building in the early 2000s. Sure, there will be ups and downs, just like the other residence halls on campus, but being in The Woods is something

Don’t judge The Woods for being a new building like I did. Take a moment to mourn for the halls that are and will be leaving us; I know what it’s like to lose a home-away-from-home.

But, The Woods are a home-away-from-home too, and that’s something to rejoice in. I’ve
already seen residents study in the living room, watch TV in the study room and multiple movie nights across the hall. I love seeing open doors with multiple people in a room, sinking into friendship.

You can’t doubt that the feeling of home floats through the drywall when walking the hallways of The Woods—from one open door you hear laughter, from another friends playing card games. During the day there is never a lack of bumping bass as
community members play their music. Having walked through the halls, I feel a sense of community and the bond grow stronger as residents from every room build communal pride in their neck of The Woods.

Birch West and Cedar West may be different from the other resident halls, but they still hold the same values of house and hall community. I didn’t know if I would find a home in The Woods, but I can assure that I did. And I’m not the only one.