Written by: Jasmine Glover
October 7, 2017
With the accelerated increase of first- year students coming to Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University, the unexpected restoration of Palmetto North was set to take place six weeks before the scheduled move in date. Yet, why was it closed to begin with?
Palmetto North is an on- campus housing facility that is located on Palmetto Street, roughly a four-minute walk to the main campus. It costs $2,719 per fall and spring semester and the capacity caps at 235 students.
According to Jennifer Wilder, the new Director of University Housing, Palmetto North has closed and reopened before. “It closed the summer of 2014 and reopened for the academic year of 2015- 2016- just 124 spaces. It shut down in the summer of 2016 and we brought it back up the fall of 2017.”
The residential hall originally closed in 2014 because of the decrease in enrollment and the new on- campus housing of FAMU Village, which houses 800 students. Vice President for Student Affairs William Hudson Jr. stated that the plan to close Palmetto North was reviewed and studied before being put in motion.
“The plan to close any facility is reviewed by housing and a determined by a housing study considering enrollment trends. At that time, we were experiencing a decrease in enrollment and the opportunity to upgrade to modern facilities was the hope and efforts had begun to obtain funding for a new facility. The Palmetto North location has always been a possibility, so those were the things that lead to closing it temporarily.”
Although there was much controversy circulating Tallahassee on the health and wellness of Palmetto North when it reopened, both Wilder and Hudson affirms that there were no violations of health codes. When asked, Wilder stated that there were periodic cleanings of the building during the times that it was closed although there were not specific time frames.
The reopening of Palmetto North wasn’t an overnight decision; however, it was a response to the 500 first- year student increase that was expected to bombard FAMU. “Last year’s projections were that they (Enrollment Management) would need 1200 spaces. When they exceeded 1200 we took away some of the upperclassmen space that had been allotted, but upper-class students had not signed up for and we used all that space. So, then there was the decision on if we could open North and if so how many spaces would that be or do we say no and send people off campus? So, we decided to open North,” stated Wilder.
Although there were hesitations to open the facility because of the fierce time constraint, the six weeks allowed FAMU to open only a portion of Palmetto North to make renovations. These renovations included: roof fixtures, the replacement of carpet with tiles, modern furniture, fixed and/or glazed windows, new cabinets, and other necessities that were dependent on what was found while cleaning.
For Palmetto North to have opened for students again there were certain fire- safety and environmental health and safety codes that had to be met. Key features of these health codes included making sure that there were up to date fire extinguishers in every apartment and to address any concerns with mold and mildew before the approval.
Amongst the many students living in Palmetto North, third- year Music Industry student, Dominic Green described the day he moved back on- campus as a bit chaotic. “I literally didn’t find out that I had to move into Palmetto North until the day I got there because I was originally set to move into Gibbs Hall- I stayed there my first two years. When I went to check in for Gibbs they told me that I was switched to live into Palmetto North. So, they gave us about a week and a half to move from Gibbs and into Palmetto because they were still renovating it.”
Although there was a lack of communication he insists that living in Palmetto North is very convenient. “I like the experience so far with living in Palmetto because there’s a lot more freedom, living space, peaceful, and cheaper because you don’t have to have a meal plan. It is really teaching me responsibility compared to living at Gibbs where everything is pretty much set up for you.”
Hudson suggested that FAMU is trying to get opportunities for funding to enhance the residence halls since many of the current facilities are old. The university is currently exploring opportunities for public/ private collaborations- a way for universities to fund construction for new buildings. “We’re constantly trying to find new funding resources for improving on campus facilities. If we’re going to attract the best and brightest students, the need for modern on- campus facilities for students, faculty and staff are very imperative.”