Margie Stone walks past residence halls

Margie Stone walks past residence halls Excellence and Discovery on April 11, 2016. Excellence is one of the residence halls that will be temporarily closed next year. "I'm not surprised to see the halls closing, more disappointed," Stone said. "I'm disappointed to hear enrollment is down because I like to see MU as a place where people want to be."

COLUMBIA — Center, Responsibility and Discovery residence halls will not be available to students next year. They are the latest to be taken temporarily offline by the MU Department of Residential Life, bringing the total number to seven. 

Although freshman enrollment for the 2017-18 academic year isn't available yet, Residential Life has decided to temporarily close Center, Responsibility, Discovery, Respect, Excellence, Schurz and McDavid residence halls next year, MU spokeswoman Liz McCune said.

Two more halls, Laws and Lathrop, have been or are scheduled to be demolished by the end of the summer to make way for two new halls. One of those, Brooks, was opened in fall 2016 and the second is scheduled to open in fall 2017, according to the department website. The new buildings are part of the Residential Life Master Plan that was approved in 2001 by the UM System Board of Curators.

Freshman enrollment for the 2016-17 academic year was substantially lower than previous years. It dropped by 1,470 students, or 24 percent, bringing the total number to 4,738, according to previous Missourian reporting. The drop in enrollment prompted the Department of Residential Life to put Respect and Excellence residence halls on standby. Respect is being used as graduate student and guest and conference housing this year, according to the Residential Life website.

"We are taking these actions to make sure we have the flexibility necessary whether the numbers are low or high," McCune said in an email. "If low, we won’t have to operate halls that are not full; if the numbers are high, we will be able to open additional halls to accommodate demand."

Discovery and Responsibility halls could be used as guest and conference housing as Respect currently is, McCune said.

Center was built in 2006, and Respect, Responsibility, Discovery and Excellence were built in 2004. Schurz was renovated in 2008 and McDavid was renovated in 2007.

Closing the halls will also save money spent on utilities. Closing Laws and Lathrop will save MU an expected $200,000 in utilities, McCune said.

Center, Respect and Discovery were chosen to be temporarily closed because they are among the least energy-efficient residence halls that the university owns. They were built with drywall and wood framing or gauge-steel framing, rather than brick and mortar, which were used in some of the older dorms, McCune said.

Each residence hall employs between five and seven staff members. The closing of the additional three halls will impact around 15 staff positions, McCune said.

McCune projected that the decrease in necessary staff will be met through retirement and turnover. If that doesn't meet the reduced staff need, however, layoffs may be necessary, McCune said. 

Student staff that are currently employed or were offered positions for next fall will be given similar positions elsewhere in the department.

Eight Freshman Interest Groups that were a duplicate or similar to another have been eliminated, though 80 will still be offered, McCune said.

If additional rooms are needed during ROAR — the freshman room assignment process — the halls will be opened for their original purpose. 

Supervising editors are Sky Chadde and Tyler Wornell.

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