Ainsley McCarthy

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — Winthrop University students planning to live in Richardson Hall for the fall 2022 semester were surprised to learn they were put into other dorms, sometimes with room assignments changing up to move-in day, because the residence hall was being closed.

Jaquan Doby, a former resident assistant at Richardson Hall, said he had heard rumors from fellow residents that it might close its doors, but he and other students did not discover its status until the semester started.

“I didn’t find out about the building being shut down until we got room assignments. I got an email – probably about the day before – that was like ‘Richardson is being shut down, you’re going to be moved to (Margaret) Nance, and it’s going to be co-ed,’ so there wasn’t much transparency,” Doby said.

The move to close the dorm came roughly a year after Wofford Hall, which is next to Richardson, closed its doors in 2021, due to safety concerns.

Wofford, which was most recently used to house quarantined students during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, received a number of complaints about mold and asbestos.

However, concerns about Richardson Hall were based on structural inadequacies that have gradually worsened since the dorm was built in 1967.

“That concrete (for Richardson) was poured on the coldest day in February, based on the data that we found,” James Grigg, vice president of facilities management, said.

“The concrete plant added a bunch of chemicals to keep the concrete liquid in the subzero conditions. That admixture with the concrete, plus the reinforcing steel, plus a roof that leaked, over a 50 year period, led to deterioration in the concrete and the steel reinforcing.”

Grigg said demolishing the building is more cost effective than renovating it, because of the updates that would be required to bring it up to code and maximize its functionality.

In September, the Board of Trustees approved $6 million in the 2022-23 budget for the demolition of both Richardson and Wofford halls.

The closing of these dorms creates some challenges on campus, as the administration is tasked with the objective to increase enrollment, while losing living spaces and facilities to support doing so.

To accommodate students, with the shrinking housing options, Margaret Nance was transitioned to a co-ed space and the availability of private rooms was cut, prompting some students to move off campus.

“The biggest difference is how the students interact. Communal style spaces have more interaction and they are perfect for our freshmen students, because the architecture forces them to bond and get to know each other,” said Trayton Graham, the former residential learning coordinator of Richardson.

A 2019 study showed that students living in communal style halls are more likely to stay enrolled than those in suite or apartment style housing, because they feel more connected to the community.

Resources for Richardson Hall, including the staff and information pages, are still on the Winthrop website.

The demolitions are a part of the campus master plan that is set to be accomplished over the coming years, but projects to install new residence halls have not yet been established.