The first thing MU graduate student Mackenzie Miller did when she found out Manor House was closing was cry.
“I’ve really enjoyed living at Manor House,” Miller said. It’s close to campus, and for Miller, it made for an easier transition into starting her first year of graduate school
On Oct. 26, residents received an email from MU Residential Life informing them the building, which is utilized for graduate student and family housing, would be closing and all current leases will end June 30. MU spokesperson Christian Basi said the decision was made after discussion with student groups, but Miller said that before that day, it was never made clear to her that residents would have to move out permanently.
“They have not given a clear answer as far as I know on why Manor House is closing, aside from ‘structural issues,’” she said.
She also said she was concerned that residents have been able to continue living in the building when it’s been deemed unsafe to do so. Now, Miller is struggling to find a new place to live next year.
The Coalition of Graduate Workers put out a news release Thursday condemning MU’s planned closure and demolition of the Manor House apartments. According to the release, this decision was made without input from Manor House residents.
“The closure of Manor House demonstrates, once again, Mizzou administrators’ utter contempt and complete lack of regard for its graduate workers,” the release reads. “They say they value graduate workers and appreciate their contributions — but if they really meant that, they would not try to take graduate workers’ homes away from them and put them out on the street! This action cannot stand. It must and will be fought.”
Manor House has experienced issues with plumbing and roofing over the years, which has led to $13.5 million in deferred maintenance. Basi said because of this it is no longer feasible or financially responsible for the university to maintain Manor House and that to imply the university doesn’t care about its students is “irresponsible.”
In addition to things like plumbing and roofing, Basi pointed to technology as an example of deferred maintenance. Old buildings, such as Manor House, are not equipped to handle the kinds of technology needed for certain renovations. In addition, the university is continually reviewing its capacity needs and believes it has enough housing to meet current and near-future needs.
“To continue maintaining that building would put an undue burden on students and their families,” Basi said. “For individuals to want us to keep the building in essence means they are OK with an additional financial burden for students and families, and the university is not going to do that.”
Manor House residents were informed of the building’s closing eight to 10 months before it would actually happen. This will give them ample time to weigh their options and find an alternate living situation, Basi said.
Basi said previously a number of students who live in Manor House are soon to graduate, meaning this decision won’t cause them strife. Furthermore, contrary to the Coalition of Graduate Workers release, he said the university did receive input from Manor House residents over the past six to seven years, as the possibility of demolishing the building has been discussed with past residents. These discussions involved student groups and other stakeholders.
But Coalition of Graduate Workers Outreach Officer Mike Olson argues this doesn’t count as input.
“There has not been, from what we’ve been told by (current) residents, any communication regarding the closure of the building,” Olson said. “The first intimation was when they got that email on the 26th. I hardly think that talking to residents who no longer live in the building constitutes real input.”
Furthermore, Olson said the fact that many Manor House residents are going to graduate soon doesn’t make the decision any better.
“It doesn’t really matter. If even one person is impacted negatively by this, that’s one too many,” he said. ... “A lot of people are not about to graduate. They’re not about to move on. And you’re still putting them in a situation that they were not prepared for.”
About half of Manor House residents are international students, whom Olson also expressed concern about. Since many of these students don’t have experience navigating American housing markets, Olson said one of the coalition’s concerns is that they could be taken advantage of.
Basi said the Department of Residential Life and Off-Campus Student Services are going to provide students with the resources necessary to help them navigate the process of finding new housing. Being a public university, MU cannot recommend off-campus housing vendors, but it can assist international students in being informed about their options. The university will also provide Manor House students moving off campus with moving items, such as boxes. If students decide to move somewhere else on campus, the university will help them move free of charge.
Olson said it’s not the demolition of the building itself that the coalition takes issue with. Rather, it’s the lack of input from current residents and the lack of a replacement building.
“We’re all in favor of demolishing buildings that can no longer safely house residents,” Olson said. “We’re not opposed to that. What we are opposed to is one, the university not being transparent about the reasons why a building needs to be demolished. And two, we’re opposed to demolishing a residence without replacing it with another residence, whether it’s brand new housing or just newly acquired existing housing.”
Sofi Zeman contributed to this reporting.