New Residence Hall Needs Careful Consideration Before Moving Forward

The housing situation at Montana State University is dire, as 150 students were placed into overflow housing at the start of this semester. However, after years of scrambling for ideas to house the ever-increasing population of freshmen — including cannibalizing Family & Graduate Housing to create the “freshman apartments” option and instituting triple-occupancy rooms in Langford Hall — the first steps toward a more practical solution have been taken.

This year, MSU finished construction on a new residence hall on the west end of campus. Named Gallatin Hall, the new building cost $8.2 million to build and contains 72 beds. In addition, MSU unveiled a proposal to build a new residence hall that would house 400 students, and initial planning is underway after being presented before the Board of Regents (For more information on the new residence hall proposal, see our coverage on page 5).

But are the new and pending halls enough to manage a larger student body? MSU officials have stated most of the new growth will come not from larger freshman classes, but rather a growth in transfer and graduate programs. However, just this year, MSU reported the largest incoming class of freshmen in its 210-year history, and it seems unwise of Residence Life to plan around current enrollment rates when recent trends suggest the numbers will continue to rise.

Compounding the problem is the off-campus housing crunch, which we covered at length in our first edition of this semester. Given the lack of accessible rental housing, more upperclassmen will seek to remain on campus rather than brave the life of a couchsurfer. This is evidenced by the lines of people camping for hours outside the Residence Life office each year to apply for the North Hedges Suites living option, as well as the popularity of the Johnstone Residence Hall among older students. As a result, housing facilities will be squeezed from both under and upperclassmen, calling into question the adequacy of the new residence halls.

Given the trend in collegiate housing toward more “luxury” set-ups, modern amenities are important in keeping students in residence halls as well as staying competitive with other universities. However, nicer amenities should not come at the expense of forcing new students to spend the first few weeks of their semester living in a residence-hall lobby — an unfortunate way to introduce nervous freshmen to their new home away from home.

If the administration of MSU wishes to avoid this overflow crisis happening again even after new facilities are constructed, care should be taken to ensure new projects are based on potential growth — not just current numbers. After all, it is more efficient to build a larger building once than to build a smaller one, only to construct another after it proves unable to adequately house students.

Students or faculty who wish to provide input into the planning process are encouraged to attend feedback sessions from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Oct. 4 at Miller Dining Hall, and on Oct. 5 and Oct. 8 in the SUB.