Updated: Dec 9, 2022
Ohio Wesleyan University had one of its largest freshmen classes in 2022, with 427 new faces. OWU had over 1,300 undergraduates in the fall of 2021, and only about 10% of students commute from home. With only 300 seniors graduating this fall, OWU’s family is getting bigger and bigger.
Brian Emerick, the head of residential life at OWU, said that they were expecting even more.
“I think the admitted number was around 470-480.”
Emerick is coming up on five years as being the head of residential life. He works closely with many departments and third-party companies to improve living conditions at OWU.
Bigger is not always better, though. The start of this academic year came with many issues, ranging from Wi-fi access, limited or no parking spaces in residential and academic lots, and multiple complaints about the food.
Many students thought that OWU had bitten off more than it could chew, allowing too many undergraduates with not enough resources to support them.
Smith Hall, the designated freshman building, was full, so some freshmen were housed in standard halls with other undergraduates.
“I understand that a lot of the time students lump those things together, with their residential experience. A lot of that stuff is kind of out of our control, but whenever we hear issues, we are the first to let AVI and their management know,” said Emerick.
AVI Fresh is OWU’s food service company. They’re a third-party company and work with the university and are ultimately responsible if the food quality drops off.
A a few residential buildings at OWU are not being used fully, or year-round. Bashford and Thompson Hall are two older buildings on campus that only houses students in special circumstances.
Bashford is the designated pandemic building in the case the school needs to quarantine individuals or groups.
Thompson Hall is currently being used to house residents of the panhellenic community. These are females involved with sorority life on campus. The current panhellenic building is under renovations.
Emerick said the university will be reaching out to students regarding its next round of building upgrades.
“Starting next week, we’re engaging students in focus groups for our next building renovation,”. Emerick said.
Buildings include Hayes and Welch Hall, the two all-female dorms, and fraternity and sorority houses.
Emerick and the rest of residential life are working tirelessly to improve living conditions at the university. Last year, they made the controversial decision to install cameras on each floor in Smith Hall, to combat vandalism.
Clay Sturts, a senior at OWU, was a resident assistant in Smith last year.
“I enjoyed it. I really didn’t have many problems. Biggest problem was just common decency amongst students. The vandalism got really bad.”
Emerick says that although unpopular, the decision paid off in a big way.
“We’ve seen a huge decrease in vandalism in general,” said Emerick. “It’s been a huge success.”
OWU continues to grow every year, and operational issues are just part of the growing pains. It is clear that Emerick and his staff are committed to providing a good quality-of-life experience for all of the students.