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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

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University announces contingent plans to vacate additional UCity buildings

Student gets served food in Wilson Dining Hall Dec. 14, 2023. The number of students using Wilson Dining Hall was down about 60% in the fall 2023 semester. PHOTO: THE HAWK

St. Joe’s students were informed Jan. 17 of the university’s contingent plans to vacate Wilson Student Center and Joseph W. England Library on the University City campus at the end of the 2024-25 academic year.

The email announcement sent to students by James Carter, Ph.D., interim provost, mirrored one Carter sent to St. Joe’s faculty and staff on Dec. 7, 2023.

Patricia Tanola ’24, PharmD ’26, UCity vice president of Student Senate, said students on the UCity campus found out about the university’s decision to eventually vacate Wilson Student Center and England Library through The Hawk’s Dec. 7 Instagram post breaking the news.

“Everyone was initially very shocked and initially very confused because it’s the dining hall and the library,” Tanola said. “In turn, just in terms of conversation, I feel like it’s the same feeling that they had when we first merged, and it’s the feeling of ‘we’re losing more.’”

The email detailed the UCity buildings the university has vacated so far since the 2022 merger between St. Joe’s and University of the Sciences. These include two academic buildings, East Building and Kline Hall, and two residence halls, Goodman Hall and Osol Hall.

“By the end of next academic year (AY24-25), we intend to vacate another group of buildings, contingent upon the ability to relocate necessary offices, instruction spaces, research labs, infrastructure, dining options and storage: Wilson Student Center and Joseph England Library,” Carter wrote in the email.

As of Jan. 26, “there is no additional information to share” regarding the relocation of the services of Wilson Student Center and England Library, according to Ross Radish, JD, vice president of student life and dean of students.

“Information will be shared with the University City community as it becomes available,” Radish wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk.

The primary factors that led to the decision to close Wilson Student Center and England Library are part of St. Joe’s plan to consolidate the UCity campus, Carter clarified in response to written questions from The Hawk.

“With the transition of all undergraduate students to Hawk Hill, some buildings have experienced low occupancy,” Carter wrote. “In an effort to better match population with facilities, we are looking strategically at which buildings should house different resources and services.”

All undergraduate students are required to live on the Hawk Hill campus for their first two years as of the 2023-24 academic year, with the exception of commuter students.

Carter also reiterated that the Wilson Student Center will not close until another dining facility is identified.

The number of students utilizing Wilson Dining Hall, located in Wilson Student Center, has been decreasing since 2022, said Jodi Finnegan, director of operations for Aramark on Hawk Hill. There was about a 60% decrease in swipes into Wilson Dining Hall from fall 2022 to fall 2023.

“The average number of weekly meal swipes for breakfast, lunch, brunch and dinner decreased from 2,224 swipes in Fall 2022 to 898 swipes in Fall 2023,” Finnegan wrote in response to written questions from The Hawk.

The reduction in dining usage appears to align with occupancy rates at the Living and Learning Commons (LLC), the one remaining residence hall on the UCity campus. While all 248 LLC residents have a meal plan, the hall’s occupancy is only at 58%, Radish told The Hawk in December.

LLC occupancy is projected to decrease to 23% occupancy for the 2024-25 academic year, Radish said then.

Usage is also down at England Library.

From June 2022 to May 31, 2023, there were 100,504 gate entries to England Library, and from August to Dec. 12, 2023, there were 43,248, which includes library staff, faculty and students entering the library, said Anne Krakow, St. Joe’s library director.

In both 2022 and 2023, an average of only 10 books were checked out per week in England Library, Krakow said. This includes circulating books in the main and leisure collections as well as interlibrary loan books.

While there is concern among faculty, students and staff about access to England Library’s books when England Library closes, Krakow said the library staff’s focus right now is on refining the collection at England Library with a plan to integrate it into the Drexel Library on the Hawk Hill campus, adding many of the library staff work in both locations already. Staff are also evaluating the resources students want and need.

“My reaction and primary concern is how we can provide library services, resources, and [a] quiet space on the UC campus once the England Library is closed,” Krakow wrote in response to follow up questions from The Hawk Jan. 29. “Despite these many changes, there will continue to be students using that campus for the next several years and there needs to be a library space to support them.”

The plan to vacate England Library also leaves uncertainty for the UCity locations of both the Writing Center and HawkHUB, St. Joe’s food and basic needs resource center. Both organizations moved from Alumni Hall to England Library this past summer.

Brian Moloney, assistant director of the Writing Center and adjunct professor of English, writing and journalism, said finding where to relocate the Writing Center on the UCity campus for a second time in three years will be hard.

“My concern currently is that with the repeated moves, we don’t want to place any barrier to entry for any students,” Moloney said. “I just very much hope that we’ll be able to find an easily accessible space that is visible and available to anybody who happens to be on the UCity campus for as long as there are students down there.”

Kevin Hoban ’24, co-president of HawkHUB, said going forward, the staff would like more transparency about university decisions like this one.

“We’ve found that moving these locations puts a lot of strain on our volunteers because we are a completely student-run organization,” Hoban said. “We understand that these things happen, and we understand that we are moving forward with the university’s plan in support of that mission, but at the same time, we need to be included in those conversations. And we need to be made aware of what’s happening so that we can continue to meet the basic needs of students across campuses.”

This is an updated version of a previous story published Dec. 19. 

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  • K

    KevinJun 11, 2024 at 1:38 pm

    I just learned Wilson Dining Hall will NOT be open on the U.City campus this coming academic year (Fall 2024/Spring 2025) which is contrary to what was previously released to the public. U.City students will only have Freshens and the POD market available for food/drink on campus.