Franciscan University is closing Padua Hall for the remainder of the spring semester due to low occupancy as well as cost concerns and is reassigning the current residents to other halls on campus.
The residents of Padua Hall were given letters from Catherine Heck, assistant vice president of Student Life, at 11 p.m. on Wednesday informing them of this change and telling them to report to a meeting 36 hours later to be reassigned to a different living space.
Every year after room-switch period, there is a time of room-consolidation that takes place during which the university cuts back on its usage of facilities, especially water and electricity, explained Elijah Simon, Padua Hall resident assistant.
“When room consolidation happens (Padua) is the first most likely one to be shut down, and it has happened plenty of times in the past,” said Simon.
Padua usually holds up to 25 residents and after the room-switch period, it was left with only 13 residents, he said.
“(Padua) has this stigma of being the place where no one wants to live,” said Simon, yet 10 out of the 13 people did not want to move.
“Lower Campus is a lot more than people give it credit for,” continued Simon.
“It meant more to me than I thought to be an RA there,” he said, “because even though it has this stigma, the people who were living there were the people I was supposed to be ministering to.”
He said that he will have to make a decision as to whether he wants to stay on as resident assistant in another hall on lower campus or to step down from his position.
“There is nothing devious going on. There is no forcing people to move out because they don’t care about them,” he said, telling about how the residents are able to chose where they are moving and keep their current roommates.
Simon spoke in defense of Residence Life and of Student Life, saying, “They are doing the right thing. It is just having unexpected effects for some people.”
Current Padua resident Tommy Valentine said that before moving to Lower Campus, he was never warned that having to move in the middle of a semester was a possibility.
“I was shocked at first, and I didn’t really understand what was happening,” said Valentine, who also lived in Padua last semester. “Once I confirmed it with a couple people … I was angry because I signed a contract with the expectation of living in Padua.”
Valentine said they have been given a week to move out of the facility.
“At the meeting they gave a list of open spots,” said Valentine, “they just went down the list … (and) whoever had the most credit got the first choice. … We were given about 10 minutes to look over the options and decide where we wanted to live for the next three months.”
Valentine said there is nothing in the housing contract that would lead residents to believe that there would be a possibility of being relocated in the middle of an academic semester.
He spoke with Heck to see if the residents of Padua who are being evicted could receive a partial housing reimbursement for the inconvenience of having to move four weeks into the semester after they signed the contract to live in Padua, and his request was denied.
“It upsets me that they are doing this to save money,” he said. “I want to make a point that this is not OK, and this is not the way they should be treating paying students.”
He also questioned why the university did not warn incoming residents that this could be a possibility since the hall has been closed in the past.
Valentine spoke of the dilemma of Simon, who had planned his finances around having the position of a resident assistant, which included his own private room and coverage for room and board expenses.
“It was just very poorly handled, and I think it is very disrespectful to everybody,” said Valentine.
Valentine is considering going to Jefferson County’s small claims court if the contract was indeed breached by the university.