At the end of the spring semester, the senior class will not be the only part of Millersville University that will be bid farewell. Brooks Hall, one of the two wellness buildings on campus will be closing permanently. While the building itself will remain standing, Brooks will officially be locked and closed for student and community access.
This decision was made in light of several recent changes on campus. One of the main reasons for its closure is safety. Brian Hazlett, Vice-President for Student Affairs and Enrollment Management, stated that after discussions with the President’s Cabinet and the police, the building was deemed to be in poor condition for continued use because parts of the building have been vandalized and are inoperable. Hazlett stated that recently, there have been break-ins to the building, leading to cases of vandalism and theft of items stored in the gym.
Beyond the vandalism and theft, there was also the issue of the pool no longer being able to work due to equipment failure. According to Hazlett, the cost of the repairs are too high to be worth the repair, especially seeing the limited use of the pool due to the campus having a second, more accessible full size pool in Pucillo Hall. While Brooks Hall has functioned since 1938 as one of the campus’s gymnasiums, natatoriums, and academic halls, recently, with changes to the campus, few students still use the facility.
Hazlett said that several clubs and student organizations used Brooks Hall as their practice and storage space, along with Athletics using the space for indoor practices. However, all groups have been contacted and will be assisted in relocation. When asked about where those organizations will be relocated, Hazlett stated that this closure will give the administration the opportunity to evaluate other recreation spaces around campus to monitor actual usage of these other locations. Through the evaluation, the administration can reorganize already established space usage to meet more of the students’ needs.
While this will be a major transition for organizations and groups that use Brooks Hall, this closure also assists the school in meetings guidelines that the state system requires all PASSHE universities to follow. Each year, based around what programs are offered at a university along with enrollment rates, the state allows each university a certain amount of square footage to be used for academic purpose. In order to comply with these guidelines, each school must not exceed this allotment. In the case of Millersville University, we exceed this allotted amount by 143,000 square feet. This drastic amount was greatly formed through the renovations of the McNairy Library and Learning Forum at Ganser Hall, as well as the expansion of Lyte Auditorium into what is now the Winter Visual and Performing Arts Center. Furthermore, while the percentage is not large, due to a decrease in enrollment, the state also decreased the amount of allotted space the university could use for administration and academics.
Recently a space analysis group, Paulian, came to campus to survey the use of each building to assist the administration in re-designating spaces and find areas that can be reduced at the university to reach state compliance. By the end of April, it is estimated that the group will present a preliminary action plan to help the university reach the goal of reducing space by 143,000 square feet. While it was a difficult decision by administration, the closure of Brooks Hall was the first step towards reaching compliance, eliminating about 30,000 square feet of space. While this raises question about other buildings closing on campus, Roger Bruszewski, Vice President of Finance and Administration, stated that building closures are not the only way to achieve compliance. Each room on campus has a classification marking its use by the campus. Based on this classification, the space can be deemed exempt from the state’s total allotment or count towards it. Buildings of non-academic purpose such as residence halls, dining, student union space, and other recreational locations do not count towards the space guidelines. Both Pucillo and Brooks Hall are included within the guidelines, as they house certain classes as well as other activities; however, Bruszewski stated that the space can also be deemed as multi-use and has a higher level of need and function, such as offering classes in a computer lab or utilizing spaces throughout the entire day by multiple departments. This increase of value and diversity on programs offered allows the state to provide a higher allotment of square footage for the campus, also decreasing the amount the campus has exceeded.
The closure of Brooks Hall and re-evaluation of campus space will assist in falling back into compliance with the state’s allotted space. While many alumni as well as current students and organizations struggle with the closure of Brooks Hall, Hazlett and the rest of the administration promised to work closely with academic classes, athletic teams, and student organizations that will be displaced due to this change. Many students that lived on the north side of campus have memories of using Brooks Hall as an extra recreation space, and those memories will live on in those students. In the upcoming weeks, Hazlett will be holding several meetings to discuss changes to space usage on campus for organizations to better utilize the locations available, as well as address scheduling and use concerns by the campus. These meetings will be held April 13th, from 12:05-1:10, and April 26th from 5-6 both in SMC 118.