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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Tuesday, March 5, 2024

First-year dorms Houston, Miller to undergo renovations in summer 2018

An architectural rendering of Miller Hall.

Houston and Miller Halls are scheduled to undergo complete renovation this summer, according to a statement composed of comments from Vice President for Operations Barbara Stein, Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins, Dean of Student Affairs Mary Pat McMahon, Communications Specialist Mickey Toogood, Associate Director of Housing Operations Matthew Austin, Associate Dean of Student Affairs Christopher Rossi, Director of Campus Planning Lois Stanley and Operations Administrative Program Manager Jeanne Carr Quealy.

Construction of Miller Hall will commence in summer 2018 and is projected to be completed in December, while construction of Houston Hall will commence in December 2018 and is projected to end the following August, according to the statement.

Significant changes will be made to the interior layout and external features of both Miller and Houston Halls, providing improved social spaces for students and greater accessibility, according to the statement. The statement also said that both buildings would have a new elevator in its central lobby, along with an additional central staircase. Miller and Houston will have new roofs, and windows and masonry will be repaired.

“These additions will create new glass façades at the entries of Miller and Houston and new student lounges in the central core of each building," the statement said. "Each building will also receive [handicap-accessible] walkways from the front door towards Carmichael and Olin.”

Toogood said the project will expand the number of residents each building can house, resulting in a total of 16 new doubles in Miller and Houston Halls, along with 20 singles designated for Residential Life student staff. The statement said there would be at least one private, all-gender bathroom per building. Accessibility will be improved across the board, it said, with 40 accessible rooms and 43 accessible beds between the two buildings.

Safety features of both dorms will also be improved, according to the statement.

“Improved security and efficiency will also be provided through programmable electronic card swipe locks, and upgrades will be made to the fire protection and fire alarm systems, the [heating, ventilation and air conditioning] systems, and the electrical wiring in both buildings,” the statement said.

These renovations also aim to address and improve the social atmosphere of both dorms by expanding student access to multipurpose space for studying, socializing and programs, according to the statement. The statement added that the new lounges comply with the Student Life Review Committee's (SLRC) recommendations to open up more communal spaces on campus, outlined in the group's recommendations released last June.

“These new lounges are part of ongoing efforts related to the Student Life Review Committee’s recommendation to ... help students build [connections], hold club meetings, and provide other options for individual and group work outside of Tisch Library and classrooms,” the statement said.

Major changes to Miller and Houston halls are long overdue, according to current first-year Alekya Menta, who is living in Houston Hall this semester.

“I’ve heard some Tufts alums come back and say that [Houston] is the exact same as when they were here 40 years ago, which is a little concerning,” Menta said.

Menta added that cockroaches and other problems made the space uninviting, and that she hoped these improvements would make the space more accommodating.

“I think improving this living space would make it even more of a social area for freshmen next year … improving the common rooms on each floor to be more inviting, as well as the lounge in the basement, would be beneficial,” she continued.

As part of the effort to create more livable and social spaces for incoming first-years, all of the offices currently located on the ground level of Miller Hall will relocate as part of a campus-wide reconfiguration of student life resources, according to the statement. These offices include the Tufts Office of Sustainability, the Tufts Institute of the Environment and the Environmental Studies Program office.

In addition, the statement said that the Office of Residential Life and Learning (ORLL) will be moving from Harleston Hall, making room for 19 more beds. The ORLL will join the Center for STEM Diversity and the Office for Student Success and Advising at 20 Professors Row, which is also the location of the F1rst Center, a community center for first-generation college students set to open next fall.

“These three departments, along with the F1rst Center, will provide an important resource hub for the student community in the center of campus,” the statement said.

Relocating these offices will also expand opportunities for juniors and seniors to secure on-campus housing, according to the statement. Still, it will impact incoming first-years living in both dorms. According to the statement, during fall 2018, one half of Miller Hall will be renovated and occupied, while the other half will remain under renovation. By the end of the fall semester, the second half of Miller will be completed and a group of first-year students will move from Houston to the newly renovated wing of Miller. Once Miller is fully renovated, the same procedure will be repeated in Houston during the spring 2019 semester, the statement added.

The statement also said the administration will work with incoming first-years to ensure a seamless moving process, and that ORLL will develop a website outlining the process.

"Any first year student who will be moving between the fall and spring semesters will be informed this summer so that we can help them plan accordingly," the statement said. "Roommate pairs will be kept together in almost all cases ... We will be staying in close contact with the construction team to minimize the impact of an active construction site on students."

Along with making the dorms more livable, the renovations will also help to provide more affordable housing on campus, according to Tufts Community Union Senate President Benya Kraus.

"The Houston/Miller renovations are extremely important because we need to ensure that the university is able to house more students on campus,” Kraus, a senior, said in an email. “With the Green Line extension taking place and the price of rent in Somerville and Medford already rising exponentially, it's important that students who need to live on campus are better able to do so.”