LeMans Hall residents returned from break in January to find that the tower room, one of the few student lounges in the building, had been turned into an apartment for their hall director, Trish Hodge.
All of the hall directors at Saint Mary's were having their apartments refurbished, Director of Residence Life Slandah Dieujuste said.
Continued construction around and throughout the building had rendered Hodge's previous apartment, located in the basement of the building, unusable, Director of Facilities Bill Hambling said.
"We kept traipsing through the apartment to do what we had to do. It just really was making a mess of things for anybody who had to be down there," he said.
Construction on the tower room was supposed to be over in December but didn't finish until January, Dieujuste said.
Hodges was able to move in right after that, she said.
Her new apartment is a "New York style kind of motif," Hambling said.
It has a loft where her bedroom is with a space underneath, Dieujuste said. There is also a private kitchen off to one side of the entrance to the apartment, she said. On the opposite side of the entrance is "her private bath which also has her washer and dryer," she said.
Construction crews have been working on the plumbing and drainage of the building and much of the work has been in the basement, Hambling said.
"The down spouts and gutters from the roves were plugged, water was backing up and going into student rooms," he said.
This was because these down spouts and gutters actually ran inside the walls of LeMans and were tied into the sanitary lines of the building, Hambling said.
Construction crews were working to clear out these spouts as well as disconnecting them from the sanitary lines and connecting them to the storm water system, he said.
Now, instead of running rainwater out of the building with the sanitary lines, he said, it is going into Lake Marion and the St. Joseph's River, he said.
In addition, the pipes that are running down the walls of LeMans are being pressurized to check for further leaks, and then hydro-flushed to ensure that all the water is flowing out of them, he said.
"We're going to stop the leaks from coming back into the building," Hambling said.
This summer they will also be going back through LeMans to fix much of the damage caused by the leaks, he said.
Though the basement apartment probably could have been refurbished, the decision was made to move Hodge into an apartment in another part of the building, Dieujuste said.
"It just wasn't the same as the other hall directors apartments that were renovated," she said.
After a careful search of the building, Dieujuste and Hambling decided on the tower room for the new apartment, he said.
"Slandah and I walked around looking for available space throughout the entire part of Lemans ... trying to find something that would be big enough to accommodate Trish's needs and there really wasn't anything without taking rooms out of service," he said.
The decision was made in October or September of this school year and student input was not considered, Dieujuste said.
"[When we do] renovations then we consult students and we form a small committee, but something like this, because it was a personal space, we really didn't form any committees or anything like that," she said.
Based on the information she had received, the tower room was hardly being used by students, she said.
"From the feedback we got from RA's and the hall directors, [use was] seldom. I mean, most students didn't even know that it was there, for those students that did know it was quite a hike ... it was just an awkward space," she said.
Student reactions to losing the lounge space has been mixed.
Some students were unaware that the tower room space had once been available to them as a student lounge.
"I didn't even know that we were allowed up there," sophomore LeMans resident Ashley Breen said.
Other students were upset about losing the space once reserved for student use.
"I hate it, I think it's ridiculous," sophomore Emily Schneider said, "When it would snow, you could see the coolest view ever [from the tower room] and it was really serene and really pretty and now we can't even see it."
She went on to talk about how she and her friends used the room.
"We used to have pizza parties up there for my friends' birthdays," the former LeMans resident said.
Other students who lived in LeMans were also upset about losing the tower room.
"[The tower room] should be for the use of students, like it's always been," senior Jeney Anderson said.
However, students will be getting an updated lounge space in LeMans, Dieujuste said. They will be refurbishing "Vendoland," the area near the vending machines and the washers and dryers in the basement of LeMans, she said. That includes new lighting, rugs, window treatments, tables and chairs for group work, she said, and some more comfortable couches, potentially including a few recliners.
They are also looking to add some new appliances and supplies to the kitchen also located in the basement of LeMans off of the "Vendoland" room, she said.
"What we're really looking to do [with Vendoland] is provide students a space that they're comfortable, where they can socialize but a space that they can also study. So we're looking at providing different types of furniture than is already there," she said.