At 6:30 p.m. March 28 Indiana Wesleyan University residence life staff calmly filed out of The Globe Theatre.
Michael Moffitt, vice president of student development at IWU and Bronson Pasko, associate vice president for residence life, had just announced Shatford House, the university’s female freshman residence hall, will close for the 2012-2013 school year.
Moffitt said the building will be vacant, but remain standing, citing financial reasons and a steady decrease in enrollment over the last few years for the closure.
“We looked at a lot of scenarios, and this made the most sense,” Moffitt said. “We’re trying to consolidate and understand that our [projected] student population was a main issue in regards to housing. We had some open spacing.”
“It’s just a sign of the times, a sign of enrollment. We don’t really have control,” Moffitt continued. “We’re responding to the market; what’s out there. It keeps us in that area where shutting down a hall would give us a tremendous amount of savings, but it’s only affecting 80 students, who could then be dispersed into Reed and Martin.”
Those logistics were of little comfort to the Shatford staff, several of whom left the meeting in tears.
Julie Sanders (so) is Shatford’s outreach coordinator, and she said the staff collectively felt something was coming up before Resident Director Laura Bronsink called them together for a meeting on Tuesday night to announce the news.
Bronsink declined to comment on the closing.
After spending her freshman and sophomore years in Shatford, Sanders said she is sad the residence hall’s legacy will not be carried on next year.
“I’m very, very disappointed,” Sanders said. “My heart goes out to the girls that were going to be on staff in Shatford next year. We were so excited, and they were going to be a great staff, and they don’t get the chance to be that staff.”
All of IWU’s residence halls had hired their residence life staff by the time this decision was made, putting Shatford’s staff out of housing and jobs. However, Moffitt said the university intends to fit them in elsewhere.
“The plan is to really just take them and offer them employment in other areas,” Moffitt said. “We’re looking at other halls for instance, Reed and Martin, they weren’t full.”
Moffitt also stated the possibility of concentrating incoming freshmen who might have gone to Shatford and their would-be staff in the new location.
“We wanted that freshman-year experience, and you can still provide that to the girls moving from Shatford to Reed by really being intentional in that particular unit,” Moffitt said. “So we’re hopefully looking at a unit or a side of Reed or Martin to now produce this all-freshman experience.”
The opportunity to have that experience is what most concerned Robyn Lawhorn (so), a former Shatford resident now living in Reed Hall.
“It’s an important thing for all freshman to be together and make that bond in their first year,” Lawhorn said. “And now, they’re just going to have to mingle in with upperclassmen, and I think that’s going to be really hard for them to transition to college with all those other people. I don’t know if I would have done as well if I would have had to do that instead of being with all freshmen.”
Current Shatford resident Rene Bushman (fr) said the news came as a complete surprise.
“I didn’t believe it at first,” Bushman said. “I was really upset because Shatford is amazing, and I don’t think it should be shut down at all.”
But the 2012-2013 closure is only “temporary,” according to Moffitt, who said the idea of reopening Shatford will be revisited next spring. If enrollment numbers go back up, IWU will look into opening Shatford again.
“We’ve had a great run of record-breaking enrollment in the previous years, but we’re not there anymore, so we’ve got to make adjustments because we can’t sit here and act like we are,” Moffitt said. “Being proactive and being good stewards, sometimes it’s painful.”
As for what exactly it will take for Shatford to reopen, Moffitt said it comes down to one main issue:
“If our enrollment was up, we probably wouldn’t be having this discussion,” Moffitt said. “If you have 200 of your closest friends that are seniors in high school and you bring them in, and they’re all female, then we’re probably having another discussion immediately.”