Construction continues but questions remain about fall semester

Meg Edwards and Hailey de la Vara
Transcript correspondents

Ohio Wesleyan’s construction and renovation plans continue to go forward despite the coronavirus pandemic, but no one, including OWU President Rock Jones, knows if students will return in the fall.

“I don’t know if we will be back on campus in the fall,” Jones said in an interview. “No one knows if we will be back on campus in the fall.”

At a time when uncertainty is a constant for everyone, Jones said he is working 12 hours a day just to keep up with the flood of emails and questions from people.

One concern is OWU’s international students and their ability to come back to campus.  About 100 were enrolled this semester and close to 35 students remain on campus. But with travel restrictions, it is highly likely they may have to continue to work remotely. The university will ensure that option is available, Jones said.

“We hope they will continue to be Ohio Wesleyan students,” Jones said.

Meanwhile, the university will press ahead with projects. Construction of the senior village apartments will start at the end of the month.

“The Board of Trustees believes it is critical to move forward with this work to enhance our ability to attract and retain students in an even more competitive recruiting environment,” Jones wrote in an April 6 administrative report to faculty.

The renovation of Smith Hall will continue, too, but the university is delaying for a year the planned $11 million project to renovate 122-year old Slocum Hall.

At the end of March, OWU finished raising over $4 million to completely renovate Branch Rickey Arena, the space where men and women’s basketball teams and volleyball and wrestling teams compete.

The refurbished facility will be air conditioned and include new flooring, bleachers, scoreboards with statistics panels, lights, and a sound system. The main lobby will be redone to create an entryway that highlights current Bishops, past champions and the legacy of the building’s name sake.

The money for the work came entirely from donations from alumni, parents of students and friends of OWU. Work is scheduled to begin in May and be completed in October 2020, but construction workers are already removing bleachers, Jones said.

Renovating the arena is important not just for student athletes, but for the whole community of Delaware, which uses it for summer camps and large events, especially when air conditioning will be in place, Jones said.

Cole Hatcher, OWU’s director of Media and Community Relations, said improving a campus facility benefits all students, including prospective students.

“I think everyone will appreciate seeing the new entryway that honors current and former Bishop athletes as well as Branch Rickey himself,” Hatcher said. “The All-American Lounge will be a wonderful addition as well.”

Renovations obviously will affect athletes and Jones in an April 3 email to faculty said he was “grateful to Coach (Krista) Cobb and the student athletes who will be impacted by this removal.”

But as volleyball team members said, they don’t play for the gym, they play for the team.

That was the decision that senior Molly Jewett came to with her teammates after learning their upcoming season games will be held in the field house, while Branch Rickey Arena is undergoing renovations.

“Wherever we are, we will still be OWUVB,” she said.

Freshman Chloe Merritt said she is not worried about the renovation interrupting the season,

“Rock Jones and (athletic director) Doug Zip and others have been super helpful and have done a very great job communicating with us on a personal level about the renovation and the process with it,” Merritt said.

Columbus-based Marker, Inc. is working on much of the construction on campus, but no contract has been finalized for the arena’s renovations. Marker built the Small Living Units on Rowland Avenue and has done LEED-certified environmentally friendly projects in the past.

Parking will not be affected by the arena’s renovations, Jones said. The only visible exterior change will be the entryway honoring the story of Rickey.

Jones also said no plans exist for a reopening celebration, but the campus will come together to celebrate when the work is done, Jones said.

“Campus is a ghost town,” Jones said. “I hate no one is here. We want to bring it back to life.”

Campus construction work to begin soon

By Maddie Matos


Ohio Wesleyan University’s construction plans are set to begin this fall semester.

In an email sent out by university president Rock Jones, the school announced that the renovation projects for residential side of campus are to begin in the upcoming weeks.

The project was previously announced in the spring, with new senior apartments for seniors and a complete renovation of Smith Hall.

“As of this writing, we’ve begun construction to renovate Smith West as part of a two-phase makeover to transform Smith Hall into a vibrant, community-oriented environment housing all of our first-year students,” Jones said.

Workers already have created a construction yard west of the building. Renovations will begin fully starting in September.

Smith parking lot will be spit, with access from West William Street to one side and from South Liberty Street to the other. Throughout construction, all students will continue to have 24/7 access to Smith Dining Hall.

Smith West is scheduled for completion in August 2020. Afterwards, renovations for Smith East will begin.

 The completed building will open in fall 2021.

Jones also said when the new senior apartments will begin.

“In October, we expect to break ground for the new Village Apartments,” Jones said. “When completed in fall 2020, the first building will feature 126 beds within four-bed, six-bed, and eight-bed units that include kitchens, two full bathrooms, large living rooms with lots of natural light, and individual air-temperature controls.”

As the first apartment building are being built, workers will make a construction site on South Liberty Street. Walkways will be made for students to access Bashford Hall, Thompson Hall and Frat Hill.

Extreme home makeover: SLU edition

The building of new Small Living Units (SLUs) is well under way. Photo courtesy of Olivia Lease.
The building of new Small Living Units (SLUs) is well under way. Photo courtesy of Olivia Lease.

Liz Hardaway, Transcript Reporter

More than a hundred years later, Ohio Wesleyan’s Small Living Units (SLUs) are finally getting a makeover.

While construction of the first SLUplex continues on 118 Rowland Ave. where House of Thought (HoT) previously stood, the remaining SLUs are rotting from the inside out.

SLUs, most of which were built in 1901, encounter problems typical to any older home: propping windows open with bricks, bats occasionally finding their ways into the hallway and laying down tarps to prevent a leaking roof, according to multiple SLU members.

The basement and third floor of the House of Peace and Justice (P&J) are off-limits, however, due to lack of renovations and concerns for personal safety, according to sophomore Izzy Taylor, a member of the house.

Whether the problem is a leaky ceiling, overflowing toilet or mold creeping between the walls, each complaint is submitted through the moderator to a residential life coordinator. Buildings and Grounds then prioritize these complaints depending on the immediacy of the concern and availability of supplies, said Melinda Benson, a residential life coordinator.

“It took almost half a semester for a computer to be installed in our common room … a hole in the ceiling over my bed rotted through in mid September, and it took until sometime over winter break for it to be repaired,” said Taylor.

Occasionally students have to relocate. Benson mentioned a student with severe asthma who had to move out due to mold within the facility.

“Some of these houses are so old that the solution will be to close that house down, and move those people to one of the new facilities,” said Benson.

Currently there is one SLUplex being built, a duplex style living facility that will house two SLUs. The master plan is to eventually have four of these SLUplexes along Rowland Ave., but the project only progresses when funding is provided, said Benson. She is hoping that by next year, as the first SLUplex opens, another will be under construction.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lease.
Photo courtesy of Olivia Lease.

As most SLUs are predicted to stay in their current homes, the application process to move into a SLUplex has changed from previous applications.

SLUs will have to submit a proposal to renew and rank their preferences for facilities. Students, staff representatives and one staff member from residential life will then determine based on the merits of the presentation and application who will be the occupants of the first SLUplex, said Benson.

“I hope to see a home that is designed around the community-focused aspect of SLUs … building community and family within the SLUplex is what is most important, as is making the building accessible to all people,” said Taylor.