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   from the issue of July 26, 2007

Campus housing in high demand


They are coming.

SUMMER COAT - Mackenzie Tillman, a summer employee in University Housing, paints around a mirror in Abel Hall on July 19...
 SUMMER COAT - Mackenzie Tillman, a summer employee in University Housing, paints around a mirror in Abel Hall on July 19. With summer conferences coming to a close, Housing employees have started preparing campus residence halls for Aug. 27 start of the academic year. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.

When doors officially open Aug. 23, a record number of UNL students will opt to live in City and East campus residence halls. Doug Zatechka, director of University Housing, said housing contract totals as of July 18 are up 328 from one year ago - although he cautioned that contract tallies traditionally shrink in the first full week of classes.

"That number is almost totally freshmen," Zatechka said. "On opening day, we are projecting, from what we know today, around 5,950 to 6,000 students living in our residence halls. That total would be the highest in university history."

Housing is already rolling to the end of a record-breaking summer conference schedule. UNL led the Big 12 Conference in beds filled per night, drawing roughly 16,000 participants to 120 conference opportunities.

Housing collects about 10 percent of its annual operating budget from summer conferences, Zatechka said.

"Summer is tougher on our employees because it doesn't have that regular schedule as the academic year," Zatechka said. "But, it is worth the extra work. Summer conferences bring in revenue that allows us to hold down room and board increases to students. The conferences are also a great opportunity to get these groups on campus and expose them what UNL has to offer."

As the summer slate closes, Housing employees are shifting gears.

"We've started getting everything prepared for the students' return," said Lavonda Alderman, a 22-year Harper Hall custodian who leads a summer conferences cleaning crew in Abel Hall. "It's going to be a lot of work, but this is what we do. We will be ready for the students."

Along with regular painting, cleaning and maintenance, workers have started setting up rooms. And, as contracts exceed room space, Housing is converting television lounges and study rooms to temporary living space, and may place students with some resident assistants.

GETTING READY - Lavonda Alderman, a Housing custodian who leads a summer cleaning crew, prepares a phone cord following a summer...
GETTING READY - Lavonda Alderman, a Housing custodian who leads a summer cleaning crew, prepares a phone cord following a summer conference. Photo by Troy Fedderson/University Communications.


"This is something we are used to handling," Zatechka said. "I've been here 30 years and I would guess that we've opened with students in temporary housing 25 of my 30 years."

To prepare, Housing has purchased extra beds, desks, dressers and wardrobes. The new items are being used primarily in the temporary rooms. Students assigned to the temporary rooms will also have the same accessories as regular rooms - air conditioning, cable television, telephone, Internet access, and sprinkler systems. In addition, some of the converted rooms will come with sofas and TVs already in place.

"We provide the students in temporary housing pretty close to the same level of service those in regular rooms receive," Zatechka said. "The only thing students in temporary housing won't have is a window."

As regular rooms open during the fall semester, Housing will move those in temporary housing to a permanent space.

"Last year, about 30 percent of the students living in the lounges did not want to move out," Zatechka said. "We gave them until the second semester to make their moves."

The growing demand for on campus living space has prompted university officials to start looking at the construction of a new residence hall.

Zatechka said university officials started discussing the construction of a 300- to 400-bed hall, featuring suite-type rooms, in June. The projected site is on the northeast corner of 17th and R streets.

The new hall would not be open until fall 2010.

"This is just exploratory and is not something we are 100 percent committed to yet," Zatechka said. "We've just begun to determine if it is something we can do on this site.

"We just need to determine if the demand for housing is something that will continue in the future."

Defining space

• To help accommodate a projected record number of students living on campus, Housing is converting TV lounges and study rooms into temporary living space.

• To save room for new freshmen, Housing stopped accepting contracts from transfer students seven weeks ago.

• Housing is also discussing the construction of a new residence hall to be finished by 2010.



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