Pierson Hall students bear brunt of construction

Noah Brown

Students in Pierson Hall are living at ground zero of the university’s construction efforts.

While they have been compensated through discounted meal plans and free parking passes, that does little to relieve the everyday annoyances of a multi-million dollar construction project just outside their windows.

Pierson was designated as a sophomore hall this year in the hope that students with experience in dealing with college life would be better suited to handling the construction. One of those sophomores is Bri Matthies, an economics and political science major. She lives on the fourth floor facing what will be the new Honors Hall. Every morning at six or seven she wakes up to the clatter and roar of construction.

“It literally feels like World War III is happening,” Matthies said. “I think what I hate the most is the random banging noises; it sounds like they are dropping something from a crane.”

Matthies said that one of the major negative effects of the constant noise and difficulty of access in Pierson is a less social atmosphere in the hall.

“In Jackrabbit Village last year everyone had their doors open; we were one big dysfunctional family. No one wants to hang out in Pierson,” Matthies said. A lack of air conditioning does little to help the situation.

Each student living in Pierson can receive a discounted meal plan and a free parking pass for the southeast lot. Students pay for $800 in flex dollars and get 20 free blocks for use in the Larson Commons each semester. Since the discounted meal plan is not automatically applied to student accounts, some are worried that not all students will take advantage of it.

“I bet half the kids in there won’t even get the discounted plan just because they don’t know about it,” said Nathan Langston, another sophomore living in Pierson.

SDSU visited with construction experts from Sioux Falls last year to determine which buildings would be most impacted by construction. Pierson was the obvious choice. The school then had to make a decision on how to best compensate students who were affected.

“We tried to make sure that [the benefits were] meaningful for students,” said Doug Wermedal, associate vice president for Student Affairs.  “The first thing we thought of was parking.”

All students living on the southeast side of campus received a discounted parking pass this year. Pierson students received the $122 pass free of charge.

Many students felt confused or even misled about the compensation that would be provided by SDSU. Some were under the impression that the cost of living would be reduced for those affected by construction.

“If the dorms were half price, I think that’s the only way [living in Pierson] would be worth it,” Matthies said.

Wermedal says the 20 free blocks at Larson Commons each semester was a gesture to ease the pain of the longer walk to The Union, where the campus’ most popular dining spots are located. Student Affairs worked with Dining Services to come up with that number.

“During the housing signup process, those incentives were posted for students,” Wermedal said.

The students in Pierson hope that building the new dorms will help alleviate the most common problem facing residential life, overcrowding.

“[Construction] is great for the school. I hope that after the dorms are built, the study rooms in other dorms can be opened up for use again,” Matthies said.

Meanwhile, students living in Pierson, Brown, Mathews and Jackrabbit Village are acclimating themselves to parking in the large lot on the southeast side of campus. Once a lot reserved for Binnewies, Young and Caldwell students, it is now the primary lot for most students living on campus.

Construction of the four new residential halls and the expansion of The Union are on schedule to be completed in time for fall 2013 classes to begin.