Extended construction of Taylor Hall forces students into Commons

Taylor Hall, a new residential building in President’s Park, was meant to be the new freshman honors Living Learning Community for fall 2014 in lieu of Eastern Shore, the previous freshman honors LLC building, which was converted into an upperclassmen honors LLC. Instead of housing these new honors freshman, however, the Taylor Hall is still under construction, leading students to live in the Commons, where the new freshman honors LLC floors are located.

Since faculty and staff thought the building would be done in time for the new school year, students wishing to be apart of the freshman honors LLC were under the impression they would be living in Taylor Hall when they accepted their enrollment to Mason and the honors college. Once students were notified the new building would not be completed in time for their arrival in August, it caused confusion and disappointment.

I thought it was kind of lame, because that’s what they like promised us, and then we didn’t get it,” said Jennifer Alvarez, an honors freshman LLC member living in the Commons. “Now that I’ve adjusted to this, I don’t really care as much. They just didn’t uphold their promise.”

Other students did not feel as strongly about the news of Taylor Hall being incomplete.

“I was a little upset, but I like this better because I know that Taylor Hall has bigger halls and there’s a lot more people on each floor where as this, we’re all like really close, so I actually like this better,” said Darbi Caitlin, an honors freshman LLC member living in the Commons.

“I just feel like since we didn’t have much information about Taylor Hall or how it was going to look… it hadn’t really affected us,” said Marco Perdomo, another honors freshman who lives in the freshman honors LLC.

“To be honest, I hadn’t followed where I was going to live all that much. I knew it was Taylor Hall, and I knew it was supposed to be new, but…when I found out I was living here that didn’t change anything for me,” said Daniel Walters, an honors freshman living in Carroll Hall. “I wasn’t really in any way emotionally invested in Taylor Hall.”

Although some students were affected less than others regarding the housing change, faculty involved understood it was important to notify students of the situation as soon as they knew Taylor Hall would not be ready in time.

“We wanted that decision to come as quickly as we could so that we could communicate it as quickly as we could so that people could prepare,” said Kevin Stoy, the LLC Coordinator. “We don’t want to mislead people, we don’t people to be informed too late to adjust or any of that kind of thing.

Stoy also noted that students apart of the honors LLC should understand that the importance of an LLC comes from the experience, not the actual building.

“It’s not like when people come to the Honors college the first thing we sell them is a building. The first thing we sell them is the overall experience and we really stand behind that, because we have a Dean who totally supports this Living Learning Community piece,” said Stoy. “At the end of the day [the LLC] is a concept, it’s not a physical space… it’s an experience to be had.”

Amongst the changes students are facing living in the Commons as opposed to Taylor Hall are different sized floors as well as a new location on campus.

“It’s kind of a smaller room, but we’re freshman so obviously I guess,” said Alvarez.

“I feel like the Commons is sort of like it’s own bubble as opposed to President’s Park where I feel like almost all, at least, freshman live and so it feels very separated from them,” said Walters.

Although some students expressed feelings of being separated from the all-freshman neighborhood that Taylor Hall is located in, most still feel connected to other honors students despite them living in different halls.

“I talk to people in Essex and I talk to people on my floor and the floor above, so I definitely see other people in the Honors college and I’ll see them in classes too,” said Walters.

“We’re all still taking the same classes…so we get to meet the other people in the other buildings anyway,” said Caitlin.

Although honors LLC members are living in different halls as opposed to living in one building like Taylor Hall, Stoy, who said he comes at an LLC much more from a conceptual perspective than a building perspective, does not see the students as “dispersed.”

“They’re not dispersed. My opinion is that it doesn’t matter at all where the Living Learning Community is,” said Stoy. “A real, strong community shouldn’t matter about where it’s located.”

Stoy also believes that the Commons help actually help form community.

“The Commons is actually where living learning communities used to be, and it was built for that,” said Stoy. “And it was built for that because of the nice small floors… it’s much more conducive to building community than Eastern Shore was.”

Many freshman honors LLC students agreed that they feel close to the other honors freshman living on their floor. The largest benefit students expressed about their LLC’s new location is the proximity it has to the 24 hour dining hall.

“It’s just so much closer to the school and it’s closer to Southside which is now like the only place for me to eat without paying money unless I want to like go over to Ike’s which has weird hours and is kind of far away… so I think there’s a lot to say about the convenience,” said Walters.

Stoy agreed that the location is fantastic for students especially with the dining changes that have recently happened on campus, but thinks the most important aspect of the new location is that the freshman honors are now living near other, non-honors students.

“I’d definitely say that it’s nice to be able to interact with people outside of the honors college as well,” said Mark Ircahi, an freshman honors LLC student living in Dickenson Hall.

One concern raised about the honors freshman being moved into the Commons was that they would be living in forced triples or quads to accommodate everyone meant to live in Taylor Hall. Stoy said this information is false.

The confusion may have occurred due to the handful of honors freshman who did not want to be apart of the honors LLC in the Commons and live with other honors freshman, as they could have been put into triples or quads.

Even though all honors freshman, non-residential students included, are part of the “honors community” and receive the same information about honors LLC updates and activities, Stoy said if they are not living in the residential freshman honors LLC in the Commons he does not have control over their housing arrangements.

“If they’re in another building, I can’t do anything,” said Stoy. “I don’t have any leverage, I can’t advocate for you as strongly when you in Liberty Square as I can when you live in our residential area where our LLC is located.”

Stoy said he wouldn’t be surprised if the honors freshman who decided not to live in the freshman honors LLC were put into triples, but made clear that all the students apart of the freshman honors LLC in the Commons live in double rooms.

For people who are still upset over the Taylor Hall situation, Stoy said that the priority, in his opinion, for honors students to achieve academically has been met.

“The reality is, at the end of the day, they’re not doing any worse in class because they live in the Commons and that’s what I care about the most is academic success. The rest of the stuff is secondary,” said Stoy. “I haven’t seen anything so far that would suggest to me that students aren’t getting the most they can out of their Mason experience over there in the Commons.”

Photos by Erika Eisenacher