Stephen Tullgren, Standards Editor
Class of 2014, the big question has been answered. Merrimack College is in negotiations with the Franciscan proprietors of St. Francis Hall in Andover to ensure housing for the rising junior class.
Dean of Campus Life Donna Swartwout said the Franciscan friars “are very excited to work with us. We have signed a letter of intent and are working towards a contract.”
After hearing feedback from the students, the college believed that it was vital for the students to have one single common residence area, Swartwout said.
“I feel like this really will keep the community feel of the Class of 2014 and friend groups together while living off campus,” she said. “I also think the parents will find the location and facility very safe.”
Approximately 150 students will be living in St. Francis Hall, which is nine miles away — a 15-minute bus ride — with a focus on familiar residence hall living. The price of room and board will be the same and the living style will be similar to that of a double in the Deegans. Laundry services will be familiar because it is the same as for on-campus students.
The college is working with Sodexo to provide a continental breakfast every day at St. Francis, for a more convenient option than having to arrive on campus before class. A Mack Card relationship similar to the ones Merrimack College has with Bertucci’s and Fuddruckers is being sought with the local eateries in St. Francis Hall’s area. These include the 99, Cracker Barrel and Longhorn Steakhouse.
Transportation between campus and St. Francis Hall will be available around the clock, as will Merrimack College Police Services patrol. The exact hours for the shuttle bus service will be announced later in the year.
Parking at the new building is readily available, Swartwout said. “There is ample parking for the residents of the building,” she said. “The detail of the parking policy is still being worked on by Police Services and SGA. We will provide further information about parking later in the semester.”
St. Francis will operate just like an on-campus residence hall, with a resident director, five resident advisors, and campus police patrolling the area. Swipe card access will be in effect just as at campus residence halls.
As the goal will be for many friends to live together in a community, the RAs will be vital in the student’s acclimation to the area through programs and optimal uses of the various activity options at St. Francis.
These amenities include lounges, study areas, meeting rooms, grass perfect for sunbathing in the late spring weather, picnic tables, and the possibility of a volleyball area, Swartwout said. The lounges will provide the cable TV access for the residence hall, as the school had to choose between wireless internet and cable TV access for the rooms in the former seminary. The school chose wireless over cable because a vast amount of programming is available online, and that is an oft-preferred method of viewing anyway, Swartwout explained.
The onus is now on students to utilize the Office of Residence Life to explore the various opportunities now at their disposal. Residence Life is looking for groups of students who want to live together and serve as the catalyst for a Merrimack experience off campus.
Director of Residence Life Sara Hicks spoke to this initiative: “A group as big as 50 would work. We can make it happen.”
Residence Life is open to possibilities such as six males and six females who want to live in the same area together. The rooms would be separated by gender, with only the same sex living together, but a group of friends could live within a handful of doors proximity to each other.
For students not interested in housing provided by Merrimack, an off-campus housing coordinator has been hired to address their needs. This position starts April 2, and will focus on guiding students through leasing options, with the Merrimack experience in mind.
On April 10, some student leaders are invited to tour the property and share their feedback with the rest of the college community.
Any questions or comments can be addressed to the dean of the campus life and Residence Life office, which is located on the third floor of the Sakowich Center. Please check your Merrimack email tomorrow for more information.