By Sarah Carlson, Arts Editor
On-campus students not living in the new Barret Hall shouldn’t fret; improvements on residence halls are made every year, bringing the older halls up to date, with this summer’s focus landing on Nelson Residence Hall.
A fire erupted on the west end of the second floor in Nelson in May, the week after finals, and the cause of the fire is still undetermined, said Bob Nevill, director of Physical Resources, in an e-mail. The fire began in a room on the second floor where the mattresses from the rooms on that floor are stored.
“Damage to the hall was fairly minimal,” Nevill said, “because the [Abilene] Fire Department responded quickly and contained the fire to the two rooms on the west end of the building.”
Nelson received new energy-efficient windows; carpeting; painted rooms and hallways; closet curtains instead of doors; new lavatory cabinets, tops, faucets and mirrors; and a new refrigerator in the kitchen said Dr. Mimi Barnard, director of Residence Life Education and Housing, in an e-mail.
Other additions included new plumbing inside the walls being changed from cast iron to PVC pipe, new bulletin boards and asbestos abatement, Nevill said.
Sikes and Morris halls’ residence directors’ kitchens received renovations, and Gardner Hall’s center and west lobbies also received updates.
Barnard said the university allocates resources each year to Residence Life Education and Housing facilities, and a committee of people conduct a “walk through” of the halls several times a year and then set priorities on what needs to be renovated or refurbished.
“Since we have 10 residence halls, and they are between 26 and 76 years of age, updating and maintenance are of continuing concern,” Barnard said.
She said she personally works on the decorating of the halls, sometimes enlisting the help of her husband, Dr. Wayne Barnard, dean of Campus Life. The Barnards have loaded and unloaded furniture, appliances, fake trees, pictures, coffee pots, lamps, mirrors, tables, big screen televisions and more into the halls, she said.
“In July, we rented a truck in Dallas to bring back several wrought iron bistro sets to use in front of the coffee shop at Barret Hall,” Barnard said. “With limited resources, I’d rather do this myself than hire a decorator.”
Barnard said Residence Life purchases major furnishings from vendors who specifically manufacture products for use in residence halls, with the decorations coming from local stores such as Hobby Lobby, Sam’s Club, Costco and Jordan-Taylor.
Another decorating addition to the halls is scriptures printing on lobby walls. Barnard said she and her husband spent a frantic evening putting a scripture on the west lobby wall of Gardner in time for move-in day. She said Gardner is large and has an institutional feel to it, and that the first impression students and parents receive has the potential to set a cultural tone for a facility.
“It’s my hope that each lobby presents a warm, inviting environment for students,” Barnard said. “It’s not the same living room they have back home, but it can still provide a pleasant aesthetic experience.”