Sept. 4, 2007
By Anita Martin
This weekend marked the first time in more than 30 years that Ohio University moved students into an all-new residence hall. At 9 a.m. Sunday, Adams Hall opened its doors to some 350 sophomores, juniors and seniors.
The hall's modified suite-style configuration grew out of considerable input. Ohio University worked with a consulting agency and talked to students and staff to determine Adams Hall's characteristics, which include fewer "gang" features, such as community bathrooms, but more "our gang" features, such as bright, open meeting spaces, resident rooms that open onto community corridors and flexible common rooms for various occasions.
Once through the stately main lobby -- done in silvery-blue hues and deep mahogany woods -- residents make their way to four floors that feature wide hallways lined on both sides with twin double rooms, each connected by a common bathroom that only the adjoining suites share.
"I really like that we have our own bathrooms instead of one giant bathroom that everyone has to share," said Emily Dunlap, whose room on the fourth floor has a great view without the climb. "Having an elevator available is really nice."
As students added personal touches to the rooms Sunday, the well-thought-out design became apparent, as the rooms transformed into something between a cozy bedroom and a well-appointed hotel room. Each room has a sink of its own, built-in furniture that keeps the space open and individual climate control.
Sophomore Nick Speck said the sheer size of his room, his favorite aspect of it, was one of the first things he noticed about the new hall.
Behind the name
Alvin C. Adams -- for whom Adams Hall is named -- became the first African-American graduate of the Ohio University School of Journalism in 1959. He went on to a career that included working for one of the nation's first black daily newspapers, the Chicago Daily Defender, and covering Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and Malcolm X's assassination for Jet magazine.
To honor his accomplishments, the Ohio University Board of Trustees named the new South Green residence hall Alvin C. Adams Hall.
Adams, an Athens County native, co-founded the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill, Ohio, with his wife, Ada. A graduate of Ohio University's College of Education, Ada Adams continues to serve as the center's president. Alvin Adams died in 2004.
"The rooms are huge, which is awesome. The whole place is just great. Plus, I have a brand new mattress, which is always a plus."
In addition to the well-received room design, Adams Hall provides expansive, glass-enclosed common areas on each floor for meetings and study. Off the main lobby, a technology-equipped conference room provides flexible space for academic lectures, meetings or social events. Anyone using the space can move or stow away furniture easily for custom configurations. They also can connect to the outside through glass doors that open onto a veranda hugging the south side of the building.
"We wanted to provide enough lounges for educational programming, social interaction and study areas," said Judy Piercy, assistant vice president of student affairs and director of residence life.
According to Norb Dunkel, president-elect of the Association of College and University Housing Officers International, recent residence hall construction has largely followed two trends: suite-style construction (like Adams Hall) and apartment-style construction.
Suites take several forms, but Dunkel said the Adams floor plan has a particular plus.
"There's a greater socialization that takes place in (the Adams Hall) configuration -- in the open, shared hallways and in the lounges," Dunkel said. "Many students like that ... as a way to get to know one another."
University planners made community building a top priority, Piercy said.
"We believe that coming together in somewhat intentional communities helps the development of our students," she said. "It's important for us to give students common space for academic and social growth."
Other features of the hall include:
- 180 double resident rooms
- full accessibility for individuals with disabilities, with alternative entrances that lead directly to an elevator
- a portico for sheltered outdoor programming
- an expansive ground-level parking garage
- microfridges (stacked refrigerator and microwave combo appliances) in residents' rooms
- high ceilings in living spaces
Richard Shultz, director of implementation, said it took 15 months, $24 million and more than 100 workers to complete Adams Hall. The university opened a bond to help pay the bill, which the student room charge will recover over time.
This hall, Shultz said, will accommodate enrollment growth and facilitate residence hall renovations. Starting with East Green, which houses the oldest residence halls on the Athens campus, the university plans to renovate one hall per year. Biddle, Reed and Johnson halls already have been completed. Lincoln Hall will be renovated this year, to be followed in the subsequent three years by Shively, Bush and Jefferson halls, respectively.
Renovation priorities include some of the same features that students discovered in Adams Hall on Sunday: improved accessibility for individuals with disabilities, individual climate control, sinks in each room, improved fire alarm and sprinkler systems, and cosmetic updates.
Depending on the characteristics of each hall, some renovations will include additional features such as elevators and learning centers, Shultz said. For Shively, the university also is planning dining-hall renovations.
Piercy thinks that for now, Adams Hall rounds out the choices at Ohio University well. Students who appreciate the social aspect of communal space will warm to this new hall, and those who like more intimate surroundings will steer toward halls with "mods" (many small common spaces with a limited number of rooms adjoining -- completely separate from other mods in the residence hall).
"Housing preference really depends on the individual, so it's nice now to have a fair variety," Piercy said.
Alison Wayner contributed to this report.
This story was modified on Nov. 6, 2007, to remove a reference to the Chicago Defender as the nation's first black daily newspaper. Professor of Journalism Patrick Washburn, a noted expert on the black press, points out that the New Orleans Tribune, published from 1864 to 1869, was the nation's first black daily newspaper. When the Chicago Defender became a daily in 1956, it was the nation's largest black daily newspaper.