Dobson Hall will close for the 2019-20 school year to accomodate for falling enrollment and to save money.
University President Sue Thomas said the University could have closed Dobson this semester, but students were already assigned rooms and it was too late.
Dave Rector, vice president for administration, finance and planning, said he met with Residence Life interim director William Nelsen and Janna Stoskopf, vice president for student affairs, in early January to discuss options for addressing the decreasing enrollment and its effect on campus living.
“So we got to looking at the different options,” Rector said. “We had a small freshman class, and we know that the percentage that normally renew to come back on campus, and we did the math and said, ‘Well, that would seem to be the logical one to shut down.’”
Dobson Hall is located off East Patterson Street between Blanton-Nason-Brewer Hall and Ryle Hall. The residence hall can house about 300 students, but this semester there are only 191, which led to closing the fourth floor this year. The building was last renovated in the 2008-09 school year.
Rector said Dobson is usually the last residence hall to fill when students are looking for housing, and it is one of the smallest residence halls on campus.
Stoskopf and Thomas said this year’s early enrollment numbers seem to be lower than last year’s.
“Anticipating the number of students we might have next year, we’re not going to get over 200 additional freshmen on top,” Thomas said. “We just don’t anticipate that happening. So the discussion was about to maintain community in all of our residence halls.”
Nelsen said the top priority of his office is making sure students who live in Dobson have a community to live in moving forward. Res Life expects the number of on-campus residents to remain the same next year.
Res Life has had discussions with Dobson student advisers who want to return next year and identified places for those staff members to work, Nelsen said. Because there will be 13 fewer SA positions next year, Res Life did not hire as many new SAs as usual.
Nelsen said there will be enough housing on campus to accommodate next year’s projected residents. As of now, there is no definite plan for the future of Dobson Hall, but Nelsen said Res Life would be open to re-opening the building if enrollment calls for it in the future.
Rector said he talked to Sodexo General Manager Justin Dreslinski and Lori Shook from the Campus Planning Office to determine a way for the convenience store on the first floor to remain open while the rest of the building is closed off.
Rector said Truman State University will save an estimated $250,000 annually because the costs of staffing and building operations will be cut. Because the building won’t be completely shut down, Rector said he expects the building to still cost the University about $100,000 to run.
The closing of Dobson Hall has provided fewer opportunities for students to become student advisers, Stoskopf said, but the decision was made prior to hiring SA staff for next year, so Res Life hired only what was needed. The full-time staff associated with Dobson, such as the hall director for the building, could not be reassigned, so their contracts were not renewed for next year.
Rector said someone from the facilities group will walk through the building regularly to ensure the building is maintained.
Thomas said the building will be maintained at a level that it can be opened easily and quickly.
Truman has closed residence halls before, such as Grim Hall and the Fair Apartments, but they were shut down permanently, while Dobson will be closed temporarily.
“It’s not uncommon for campuses to close residence facilities if they anticipate their number of residents is not going to be as high as it was,” Stoskopf said. “So I really don’t think it’s going to have much of an impact on our incoming students in terms of how they perceive Truman.”
Thomas said she thinks closing the residence hall could reflect negatively on the University, but the focus for the institution was more on maintaining community and saving money in the process.
“For us, I think, the concern is there is always concern about the external reputation of the University, but I think that we can very easily explain all of it,” Thomas said.