Students began arriving on ORU’s campus in early August to start the new school year. They noticed quite a few changes that occurred over the summer. One notable change was the conversion of Wesley, a male dorm, to Susie North, a women’s residence hall reserved specifically for freshmen.
The result of this transition meant relocating an entire dorm of male students into the two remaining men’s dorms. Wesley Luehring Hall, which stood as a men’s dorm for over 30 years, exchanged its name for “Susie North” and redesignated its space to house only women.
In a recent meeting with student leadership, Oral Roberts University President William M. Wilson called it a “business decision.” Dr. Nancy Brainard, Vice President of Enrollment Management, similarly recalled that the decision was made in order to accommodate the female students who had deposited money but were unable to select a room.
She also stated that the three departments involved in this decision were Enrollment Management, Student Life and Operations. These three departments met several times to brainstorm possible solutions before deciding on a one-year solution that provided both additional female space and an opportunity to have more freshman floors.
When asked if this would be a permanent decision, Brainard responded that a re-evaluation process would occur before the start of fall 2018. The decision to convert Wesley into an all-women’s dorm was made in order to dissolve the immediate crisis of fall 2017 enrollment, but will not necessarily continue into following years.
This might come as a relief for some students, especially the ex-Wesley residents. Stephen Ottaviano, who was asked to relocate from the second floor of Wesley to Michael, another men’s dorm, noted that the culture of the dorm is completely different because of the recent change. The fishbowl, a co-ed hangout spot that formerly connected both of the men’s dorms to both of the women’s dorms, is no longer a passing-point for Michael residents. Over the summer, a new entrance was built for Michael residents.
“There aren’t as many people in the fishbowl, which was such a great gathering spot last year. I met a lot of people in the fishbowl lobby that have become my best friends,” said Ottaviano. “Also, the separation of the entrances makes the atmosphere more separated and secluded.”
Ottaviano echoes the feelings of many male students throughout campus. “I miss the feeling and community of Wesley,” he said.
For Lauren Kliewer, freshman resident of Susie North, this decision changed her life in a positive way.
“My experience has been fantastic,” said Kliewer. “I love being on an all-freshman floor because everyone is so relatable and outgoing. I’ve met so many friends here.”
Despite varying reactions, the decision seems to have served its purpose. Every student who applied for a room has now been placed.
Brainard also denied the rumor that male students are currently being housed in a local hotel.
“As male spaces began to fill up, we noticed the potential for a similar problem,” said Brainard. “So we made a contingency plan with a local hotel to have space available should we need to house male students there for the first week of school while things shook out, but we did not actually use that.”
With the potential for dorms to overcrowd, Brainard assured that no changes would be made to ORU’s generous acceptance rate.
“Right now, ORU is committed to finding housing solutions for our students while growing the enrollment of the university,” said Brainard. “So we do not have plans to change the number of admissible students. We still want to welcome students to ORU if they are qualified and want to solve the housing problem a different way.”
When questioned about the possibility of opening a new set of dorms, however, Brainard said the option is being discussed but has not yet been confirmed.
“There is a lot of interest on the part of the alumni and current students about exploring building a new dorm, and that’s something that is presently on the table being considered. But plans have not been finalized for a new dorm yet,” said Brainard.
However, she indicated that a decision will be made soon. So apparently, the Wesley to Susie North transition is the first of many changes yet to come at Oral Roberts University.