Ag tradition threatened in Hansen

Amanda Peterson

Since 1967, Hansen Hall has housed SDSU students seeking a rural lifestyle on campus but times are changing and in the fall of 2013, so is Hansen Hall.

In 2008 the SDSU Residential Life and Dining Services Master Plan, which is available for public viewing on the SDSU website, was developed. The plan was created to increase the freshman and sophomore retention rate to 80 percent or higher, to increase the six-year or less graduation rate to 60 percent or higher and to increase graduate student enrollment by 11.1 percent by the year 2018. To reach these goals, two residential neighborhoods were proposed.

The first neighborhood would be traditional. It would consist of freshmen and sophomores and would be located on the southeast side of campus. The second would be an upper-class undergraduate and graduate student neighborhood on the northwest side of campus.

“I’m sure there is sound reasoning underlying the proposed changes, but personally, I think it would be sad to lose the culture and camaraderie that Hansen offers to students in the college of Ag and Bio,” said Dr. Cody Wright, SDSU professor and alumnus.

Others agree. Helen Lauth, senior parks and recreation management student and former Hansen Hall resident, said having so much in common with fellow residents during her time in Hansen made making friends easier. It’s because of this she believes it’s important to keep the agriculture tradition of Hansen Hall alive.

“Hansen provides a real home for students with an agriculture background, and creates a community for those students with similar values, interests, and major areas of study,” said Lauth.

Students are not the only people concerned with keeping Hansen Hall rurally based. Mary Christensen, the coordinator of advising and student retention in the College of Ag and Bio, also said it would be a shame to see Hansen Hall changed.

“Hansen Hall is an Ag Bio student tradition and it would be unfortunate to lose that tradition and history,” said Christensen.

In the fall of 2013, Hansen residents will be placed in dorms on the east side of campus and Hansen Hall will be repurposed to fit into the upper-division neighborhood.

The Master Plan states the freshmen housed in Hansen Hall will be relocated to the southeast neighborhood because of the hall’s poor or falling retention rates. Hansen’s retention rate fell 9.5 percent from 2008 to 2009. It also states when students apply for housing they are three times more likely to select a hall on the southeast side of campus.

“What the majority of the students want at SDSU is on the east side of campus, and when you look at planning for the future, you have to look at the big picture,” said Connie Crandall, director of University Housing.

Not every student is excited about the upcoming changes. Four hundred Facebook users have liked the group “Keep the Ag Tradition alive in Hansen.” The description of the page includes this quote from page administrator:

“This is a state school founded in agriculture people. Let’s remind the campus folks that being a resident in Hansen isn’t a punishment. Being labeled as an “Aggie” for living there should be something to be proud of!”

SDSU students Josh Johnson and Brady Duxbury question if the Master Plan provides a successful learning atmosphere for students coming from a small town and rural upbringing. He said students should be able to choose what kind of lifestyle they want to experience on campus.

“For some students the Hansen style of living is just a better fit,” he said.

They believe the rural environment of Hansen Hall prevents students from feeling overwhelmed by the new, more urban layout, because the majority of South Dakota towns have populations smaller than 5,000.

“You wouldn’t stick a kid from small-town South Dakota in New York City and just expect him to succeed,” Duxbury said. “Coming to a campus of 13,000 people can be scary to someone coming from a small town. Hansen provides a place to get your feet wet.”

Former SA President Mark York said Hansen Hall is a recruitment tool that sets SDSU apart from other state universities.

“Hansen Hall is something that sets SDSU apart from other universities that we compete with for students,” he said.

Crandall said she is not surprised students from Hansen Hall are speaking out against the Master Plan.

“I like that the students are taking a stand,” she said, “and I understand why.”

News Editor Tamora Rosenbaum contributed to this report.