A top Northwestern University official says the school believes it is hurt in student satisfaction surveys because so many of its students live off campus.
Executive Vice President Nim Chinniah says student satisfaction is associated with continuing to live on campus as students move through their four years of undergraduate study.
Chinniah, who was hired at NU by President Morton Schapiro two years ago and had previously worked at the University of Chicago and Vanderbilt University, told residents at a NU/City Committee meeting Tuesday evening, "I come from schools where all four years lived on campus."
He also said most of NU's peer institutions require most of their students to live on campus.
Northwestern now is trying to implement a rule to require freshmen and sophomores to live on campus, starting with the class year entering next fall. Currently only freshmen are required to live on campus.
Community resident committee member Tom Gemmell, with Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward.
Several residents at the meeting objected to the school's preliminary plan to build a larger dorm on the site of the existing one at 1835 Hinman Ave.
They suggested a number of alternative locations that school officials at the meeting said wouldn't be practical, including:
- The Garrett Theological Seminary property at mid campus — which is under a 99 year lease that doesn't expire until 2034 and has an option the seminary can exercise to renew it for another 99 years.
- The Sigma Alpha Epsilon headqurters property at 1856 Sheridan Road — which is not owned by the university.
- Property on the northwest corner of Clark Street and Chicago Avenue. It was shown in a 2009 NU plan as a development site. But John D'Angelo, the school's facilities vice president, said after the school looked more closely at the engineering issues involved in developing the property, it became infeasible.
- Elder, Bobb and Sargent halls on north campus. D'Angelo said adding more dorm space there wouldn't help solve the current space shortage — which exists on south campus.
NU's Alan Anderson and John D'Angelo.
But another alternative appeared to be one the school officials considered to be worth some further evaluation.
That idea, suggested by resident Jeanne Lindwall, was to build a new, bigger dorm across Sheridan Road from 1835 Hinman on the site now occupied by the Fairchild Hall dorm.
Fairchild Hall, circled in red, and 1835 Hinman, circled in blue, on an image from Google Earth.
D'Angelo said Fairchild, with 240 beds, is about the same size as 1835 Hinman, which has 220. And the two buildings are of roughly the same mid-1980s vintage.
Residents suggested that if a new dorm on the Fairchild site had dining facilities, which currently are located in 1835 Hinman, it would eliminate the need for hundreds of students to cross heavily-travelled Sheridan Road several times a day.
Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, who chairs the committee, suggested that at the committee's next meeting in December, school officials return to discuss "other locations that might possibly work for you."
She said, "We are in an unusual situation where there's a thriving residential community that complements your campus. I can't think of another campus that has real residents, without almost a DMZ around the campus." That happened, she added, "because residents stood up and said we need to protect our neighborhood."
NU to discuss new dorm with neighbors (8/17/16)