Caroline Roy ‘20

Et Cetera Editor

New RLO offices, located near Commons. Photos by John Crawford ‘20

This start of the school year saw several new changes to key campus buildings, including renovations in Richardson and Belk Halls and new homes for Residence Life and Catcard Services.

Over the summer, 24 new beds replaced the office space previously located in the basement of Belk. According to Director of Residence Life Walter Snipes, this construction primarily responded to a need for more housing. The move allows the college to better house a growing number of first-year students, but it also fundamentally changes the way that RLO and other organizations interact with students on campus. 

“We were the business part of Belk,” Snipes said. “Now this allows Belk to be all residential, which I think really builds that level of community.”

The RLO office hasn’t gone far. Its new location, in the former campus laundry building, is located conveniently between Commons, Belk, and Union. Snipes said that their new workplace is the same size as the old Base Belk office, but with new furnishings and technology that strengthen their work environment. The building comes equipped with a new front desk, comfortable waiting chairs, new carpets, and spacious offices for each of the RLO staff members.

Richardson, or “Rich,” was built in 1960, making it one of the oldest dorms on campus. This year, it also underwent drastic renovations. Rooms have been refurbished with updated furniture, and RLO helped install bigger lounges, equipped with modern, comfortable furniture, in order to provide first-year residents with a productive communal space.

“There’s a lot of great community there,” Snipes said. “We wanted to see how we could tap into those communities. The lounges now, we believe, foster a better sense of community.”

Snipes pointed out that community spaces in Rich existed in other, equally valid ways before the updated lounges. For example, Rich residents before this year created a sense of community by using markers to write on the white wall tiles.

“The positive thing in terms of the people who used to be in Richardson was the experiences they had and the community that they built. Some people enjoyed that community and some people didn’t. I think the students who are moving in now are going to have the same level of experience.”

Liz Goei ‘23, who lives on first floor Rich this year, said that she had heard about the building prior to arriving at Davidson. “I heard that Richardson ‘builds character,” but now that it’s been redone it’s much better,” she said. According to Goei, the lounge spaces are functioning as RLO hoped. 

First year students relax in a newly refurbished Richardson lounge. 

“People who live in other dorms hang out here,” Goei said, “People are always using the lounge spaces. It’s a good community center.”

Scott Whitney ‘20, lived in Rich as a first-year and agreed with Snipes that students in Rich enjoy their community regardless of how nice the setting. 

“Rich desperately needed renovation, but I wouldn’t trade living there for anything,” Whitney said.

The CatCard Services office, previously located in Base Belk with RLO, has moved to the second floor of the Union. Manager of CatCard Services Anne Cavett thinks that this move allows better access to the entire student body compared to their previous location. 

“Being in the hub of campus is really important. It’s nice to have a very visible space where people can find us,” Cavett said. 

Snipes said that while RLO does work to identify student needs and plan renovations, they don’t have complete control over when and how these renovations happen. Often, RLO and Physical Plant must work alongside Business Services and other financial resources to bring changes to campus. 

“I think sometimes there’s a perception that we’re really powerful, but we’re not. Davidson’s a very relational place, and we all come together to make sure we meet the needs of our students,” Snipes said. 

Going forward, Snipes says he hopes to continue working with other campus organizations to improve student spaces. For example, RLO hopes to make the laundry room in Belk more accessible to students with mobility issues. As of now, the elevator to the laundry room only operates on one side of Belk, making it difficult to access from the new rooms in Base Belk. 

“We’re always looking at every residential space,” Snipes said. “The question is what can we realistically do? We don’t want to do a renovation that will negatively affect the student experience. We’re going to have conversations with Physical Plant and Business Services to determine what those needs are.”