By Madison Lewis and Sarah F. Griffin
In an effort to entice more students to dorm on campus and increase university profit, the Student Government Association and Rider officials allocated funds to upgrade its residence halls and community areas.
Money was withdrawn from both the university operating and SGA budgets to make aesthetic renovations and other improvements to campus facilities used by students.
Vice President of Facilities and University Operations Mike Reca commented on the modest nature of the changes made to the residential buildings.
“Since 2016, we’ve invested about $26 million into residence halls and right now we do not have the capacity to do that,” said Reca.
Residence halls Poyda and Olson saw $250,000 and $220,000 for upgrades, respectively, funded by Rider’s operating budget.
Poyda was refurbished with new paint, flooring and LED lights in hallways, and every third room received window unit air conditioners.
Olson received air conditioners in every room and minor improvements to the bathrooms.
Students should expect new lounge chairs in the next couple of weeks in both Poyda and Olson, according to Reca.
Rider’s SGA allocated $53,713 of its budget for residence hall lounge furniture, according to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs Nicholas Barbati.
“Every improvement we make in a residence hall helps with retention and recruitment. And every dime spent is valuable in that regard, because the more we could improve the residence halls for the students, the more they’ll want to stay here,” said Reca on the financial viability of the renovations. “It also gives you a better academic experience when you live on campus because you’re more engaged.”
Housing has been a major revenue stream that the university is trying to reestablish after the COVID-19 pandemic caused a drop in residence of over 1,000 students from 2019 to 2020.
As of Sept. 4, Vice President for Enrollment Management Drew Aromando reported 1,665 resident students, a 58-student increase from last fall.
Along with the money from the operations budget being allocated to cosmetic renovations, SGA provided funds for its own additions to campus.
SGA’s project funding budget for fiscal year 2023 was $430,762, which was taken from the unspent $290 student activity fees from previous years, mostly due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The budget is set for facilities projects from the SGA at the end of each fiscal year,” said Barbati in an email to The Rider News. “What that means is that if there’s money left over at the end of the year where clubs and organizations didn’t use it for programming, a portion of it goes into the SGA facilities project fund account.”
From there, SGA determines what improvements take precedence to promote student engagement, satisfaction and overall experience at Rider.
Students may notice new outdoor seating and study areas on campus, like the upper Bart Luedeke Center patio and the residence quad near Lincoln Hall.
Barbati said that $300,000 was reserved for the spaces. Security cameras for the seating areas and student spaces totaled an additional $25,000.
Additional funds were allocated from SGA to damaged student gathering accessories, like the hammock area near the Centennial Lake and the lights that were vandalized in the Zen Den on the second floor of the BLC.
SGA, according to its president, Naa’san Carr, has considered renovating certain dorm halls.
“We’ve been in meetings since the spring semester of last year to talk about residence halls specifically,” said Carr.
The SGA president explained why the university is having difficulty funding dorm hall renovations.
“On a university level, no one is donating to residence halls — SGA cannot use all of our budget to repair the dorms. We are trying to do minor things that will help enhance the dorms, like getting carpet replaced or fixing showers,” Carr said.
Carr said students are now able to enjoy other newly renovated places on campus.
“As of now, the patio is complete. We might be talking about an expansion, but what you see is really what it’s going to be for right now,” said Carr of the patio outside the Cavalla Room.
Carr expanded on the SGA’s role in university-wide building projects, saying, “We don’t really deal with logistics,” and that the student government does not “deal with the outside things,” such as which contractors to hire or what materials to use during building renovations.
“Student government just formulates the idea and vision for projects, and we leave the rest in the hands of Mike Reca. He takes care of all that stuff,” said Carr.
Reca added a statement of hope and urgency describing how imperative it is to make aesthetic changes to promote Rider’s housing and its campus.
“If we don’t continue to follow up on these [renovations] and continue to improve, we’ll hurt ourselves,” said Reca. “We need to start making bigger investments in the residence halls, and right now we do not have the capacity to do that, but for the future, it is going to be necessary.”
Originally printed in the 9/13/23 issue.