Merlini Hall stays closed for second year in a row

By Madeline Alvarez, Sports Editor

Although it was expected that Merlini Hall would reopen this fall as the university’s first pet-friendly living option, the residence hall remains closed for the 2019-2020 academic year.

Director of Residence Life Scott Mudloff said that Merlini closed this year because of the low number of on-campus students, the same reason it was initially closed for the 2018-2019 school year.

“The four [residence] buildings as a whole were sitting at about 60 to 70 percent full. If we were to have closed Merlini again, that pushed all the occupancy rates up to about 94 percent  full,” Mudloff said.

He said that there was almost no interest in the pet-friendly living option.

Mudloff said that there are 225 students currently living on campus, but that the four buildings together have the capacity to hold almost 400.

“Our main goal when we look at something like that is to just make sure there is a good environment in each of the buildings. So if the building’s sitting there two-thirds full, it’s not going to be as lively, it’s not going to be as vibrant…. It’s going to be kind of dead,” Mudloff said.

Jennifer Gantz, Newman’s chief financial advisor, said that, while administration was hoping that there would be enough incoming on-campus students to fill Merlini this year, there are benefits to consolidating students.

“I think the biggest is that... more people will enhance the experience,” Gantz said.

Mudloff said that, although Newman is able to keep most students who start out living on campus, the university has not seen many new students opt to live in the residence halls.

Mudloff said it gets more and more challenging to get students to live on campus because the new generation of students coming to Newman tends to want to stay at home.

Junior Mac Foley, who had signed up to live in a single occupancy room in Merlini, said that he is not upset about having to live in Beata Hall instead.

“With anything, my plans changed, and so, while I was not planning on living with four other roommates, and not planning on having to share space with other people… I understand that… you got to do what you got to do for the team….” Foley said.

Foley said that he got in touch with Mudloff when he became aware that Merlini might not be reopening and chose Beata as his second preference.

“I think it was easier on [Mudloff] because the other three people that were in my dorm last year, they all wanted to live in Beata also. So it was easier for Scott to just be like, ‘Yeah, we’ll just put you four back together and then add one more person…. ’” Foley said.

The 46 students who signed up to live in Merlini this fall but were moved to one of the three other halls received the same rate they would have had if they had been able to live in Merlini.

Mudloff said that, had Merlini reopened, it would have received some maintenance work, which would have included fixing water damage in the main lobby. Ultimately, however, Mudloff said, the life expectancy of Merlini Hall is coming to an end.

Gantz said that there are no immediate plans for Merlini.

“I wish that we had immediate plans to do some changes, but we [don’t], at least not in the next year or two,” Gantz said.

PHOTO: Courtesy Photo.