St. Thomas University may sell the Forest Hill residences, Rigby and Chatham halls, to pay for a projected $190,000 deficit in the ancillary budget, which includes residences and related services.
This was brought up by Lily Fraser, the vice-president of finance and administration, at a budget development town hall meeting on March 31 in Ted Daigle Auditorium.
“We’d like for the residences to be full and have a vibrant campus community,” said Fraser
Fraser said the residence system was built for a time when enrolment was higher. The property is not yet on the market but the university announced a long-term plan to consolidate residences so their size is proportional to the number of students living in them.
Fraser said only 450 students live in residence although the total capacity is 830 students. She said the university doesn’t expect an increase in enrolment, and it would take a 200 to 300 student increase in a few years to justify keeping the Forest Hill property.
She said even with Harrington Hall being closed for renovations next year, there will be enough space to accommodate all students who want to live in residence.
Fraser said the Forest Hill residences cost approximately $1 million to run annually.
“It’s supposed to be self-supporting, and now it’s too big for the number of students that we have.”
If the sale results in a surplus the funds can be transferred to the operations budget that has a $1 million deficit.
Other possible ways the university will attempt to tackle the deficit is through facilitating staff retirement, considering wage restraints, and decreasing expenditures, specifically in the Athletics Department.
Fraser said the point about cuts to athletics was brought up many times.
“We’re looking at our revenues and expenditures, and the fact that 200 student athletes contribute tuition to the university,” she said. “You need to look at it from a fairly comprehensive perspective.”
Megan Thomson, president of the student union at St. Thomas University, spoke about the Forest Hill issue at the Student’s Union of St. Thomas’ weekly council meeting. She said it will probably take some time to sell the property since it is in a niche market.
“If you’re worried, you don’t need to be,” she said, “because chances are we won’t see that (sale) in our collective life at STU, unless you’re in first year then maybe, but probably not.”
Thomas MacDougall, a first-year student now president-elect of Chatham Hall, said he is not surprised by this news.
“I mean it’s hard for universities nowadays,” he said.
He hopes the renovations of upper campus residences like Harrington are an attempt to make them more like the newer Forest Hill residences. The University plans to renovate all upper campus residences, but can only update one residence at a time.
While Harrington is closed for renovations next school year, part of Vanier Hall will house Harrington residents. Once Harrington Hall is renovated, the university will begin planning Vanier renovations and then Holy Cross House.
“I guess from a presidential point of view you just have to make the next couple of years count,” said MacDougall.
He said if the sale goes through it’s important to preserve the Forest Hill spirit and transfer that to upper campus
“Maybe there’s a place for (Chatham and Rigby) up here even if the building itself isn’t there,” he said.
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