Let Hansen Hall be Hansen Hall

Issue: SDSU plans to create a task force regarding the future designation of Hansen Hall

There’s been a lot of support thrown behind leaving Hansen Hall as the agricultural living, learning community over the last several months, but there’s something important noted in our story this week. College of Agricultural and Biological Sciences Dean Barry Dunn said he is concerned that moving the community out of Hansen Hall could affect the whole campus negatively and that the school could lose a valuable tradition. Students raising their concerns about Hansen Hall is one thing, at least as far as the university is concerned; it’s quite another to have the dean of an entire college like Dunn want to revisit the issue.

One of the goals behind the Residential Life and Dining Services Master Plan was to create communities on campus that would enhance student academic performance. Yes, Hansen Hall has a reputation for playing hard and starting the occasional dumpster fire, but it also has a reputation of being perfect for kids who come to SDSU for the first time, especially for those from small towns. SDSU itself has as many or more people than most of the towns in South Dakota, not to mention the rest of Brookings, and that can be intimidating. By most accounts, Hansen Hall’s doors are usually open and residents feel welcome, which is exactly what SDSU is trying to replicate in the other residence halls on campus.

Why mess with something that works?

Data from the Master Plan, updated for 2011, showed that in 2008 Hansen Hall had an 83.7 percent retention rate, which dropped in 2009 to 74.2 percent. The Master Plan also says, however, that enrollment growth began in earnest in 2009, which probably led to an increase in the number of students assigned to Hansen Hall that didn’t have an agricultural background. Whether or not that impacts Hansen Hall’s retention rate, we don’t have the data right now to know for sure. But anecdotal evidence suggests that farm kids like living there.

Today with the burden of funding higher education shifting to students, the Board of Regents said just last year that student tuition and fees are now paying for 59 percent of the cost of their degrees. That being the case, students should have a seat at the table and be allowed to have a greater impact on the decision. If the students living in Hansen Hall now and in the future actually want to live there, then let’s let them live there.

Attaining an 80 percent retention rate is an admirable goal, but will alienating agriculturally based students, who have been at the core of SDSU for over 125 years, serve the goal of a higher retention rate?

 Stance: Let Hansen Hall remain the agriculture living, learning community.