UD opens new dorm
Academy Street building houses 531 freshmen
For the third time in five years, University of Delaware students returned to campus to find a brand new residence hall awaiting them.
After two years of construction, the new South Academy Street Residence Hall officially opened Saturday, when more than 4,300 incoming freshmen began arriving to campus.
The new four-story dorm, located on Academy Street between Smyth Hall and Hartshorn Hall, houses 531 freshmen in 14 clusters that UD officials refer to as “communities.”
The dorms have a traditional layout with communal bathrooms, rather than the suite-style rooms built a decade ago on Laird Campus, located off New London Road.
Jim Tweedy, director of residence life and housing, said studies have shown
that freshmen do better in traditional-style residence halls, which tend to promote more social interaction.
“Anybody would say, ‘I want the biggest room possible and I want the most private place around,’ but we find that the more privacy we build in, the harder it is to meet people,” Tweedy said.
Social bonds form when students see each other in lounges or even on the walk down the hall to the bathroom.
“What the bottom line is for our students and their experience at the university is building up their social connections and building a peer group. That helps them get involved and helps them get engaged on campus,” Tweedy said. “We try to design our facilities to help facilitate student interaction and student engagement.”
The dorm rooms, most of which offer 195 square feet of space for two students to share, are largely barebones accommodations, but common areas are not lacking for 21st-centur y touches.
Small lounges in each community offer a variety of furniture to relax in, and a larger gathering space on the first floor has a raised stage area for performances and a sound system that includes inputs for microphones and guitars. The residence life staff will organize various programming throughout the year and also encourage students who are musically inclined to perform at casual coffee-house events.
“We do a lot of work to ask students to give their talents up for the community,” Tweedy said. “We have students who are incredible performers.”
A unique amenity is the “idea lab,” a room where students can get together to brainstorm ideas for a project or work on a presentation. The room contains a tabletop that doubles as a touchscreen computer, as well as two projectors for displaying computer screens or other media. It also has a colored light system, which can bathe the room in red or green.
“The idea is to use technology to brainstorm projects,” Tweedy said. “The lighting is just a bonus, but it’s been very popular among people who have already moved in.”
Even the shared kitchen has received a modern-day makeover. Cameras positioned over the stove allow students to record cooking demonstrations to share with friends. UD might also bring in faculty members from its restaurant management program to give professional cooking lessons.
The opening of the new residence hall caps off a more than decade-long effort to replace much of UD’s older housing stock with more modern facilities.
Four new complexes opened on Laird Campus between 2005 and 2008, replacing the old Pencader complex. In 2013, Redding Hall and a rebuilt Gilbert Hall opened behind the Perkins Student Center. They were followed two years later by the new Caesar Rodney dormitory and dining hall on Academy Street.
This fall also marks the unveiling of a renovated Russell Dining Hall, which was upgraded to include café-style seating, an open floor plan and a brick pizza oven. Kent Dining Hall, which ended its 90-year run in May, will be repurposed.
On Saturday, UD President Dennis Assanis marveled at the new South Academy Street dorm as he greeted arriving students.
“Look at it,” Assanis said. “It’s a gorgeous facility. It could be a first-class hotel anywhere.”
“We’re not going to stop here,” he added, hinting that more new residence halls are planned, though he declined to give details.
The recent construction has allowed UD to concentrate freshmen around the Perkins Student Center on Academy Street. Approximately two-thirds of firstyear students live in that area.
“We find this is a very popular spot of campus, and the concept is to build community, so being able to put people in proximity to each other is very helpful,” Tweedy said. “Right now, we’re by a major series of other residence halls, close to a student center and certainly very close to The Green.”
So far, the dorm that opens Saturday is called, simply, South Academy Street Residence Hall. However, a board of trustees committee responsible for naming facilities is expected to discuss the building later this year.
If the committee decides to rename the building, a possible choice might be John Dickinson Hall, which would carry on UD’s recent pattern of repurposing the names of dorms that are decommissioned. The old Rodney and Dickinson complexes on Hillside Road closed in 2015.
The University of Delaware’s new South Academy Street Residence Hall opened Saturday.