The grand opening of Phase I, which includes four dorms and a Living Learning Center on South Green, was held on Saturday to celebrate the August completion of the first part of the Housing Master Plan.
These dorms house more than 900 students and are the beginning of a larger renovation of South and East Greens, according to the OU Division of Student Affairs.
Around 60 Ohio University students and distinguished faculty attended the grand opening, including President Roderick McDavis, Interim Vice President of Student Affairs Jenny Hall-Jones and former Vice President of Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi.
About 25 Ohio University Student Union members also attended, carrying signs that read “Respect I support the RA union.”
While Christine Sheets, assistant vice president for student affairs, began the event by introducing the new dorms and the families of the people the buildings are named after, Student Union members walked to the bottom of the steps below where Sheets was speaking and held signs that supported RA unionization.
“It was not a protest or a picket; it was just a presence,” said Casi Arnold, a resident assistant and members of the Ohio University Student Union. “We just wanted to let people know that we are not gone because it’s been since last year that there was any talk about the union.”
Arnold also said the Student Union was protesting to bring attention to “some events within central where some RAs lost jobs recently.”
The four new dorms, Carr, Lucks, Sowle and Tanaka Halls, are part of a $110 million project and are named after significant people in Ohio University’s history.
Carr Hall pays tribute to Ohio University’s first African-American student-athlete Allen Carr, while the Luchs building is named in honor of Evelyn Coulter Luchs, the first woman to sit on Ohio University’s Board of Trustees.
Sowle Hall commemorates Claude Sowle, who served as president from 1969 to 1974 and was integral in the development of both the Honors Tutorial College and the Office of Institutional Equity.
Tanaka Hall was named in honor of Tomoyasu and Sumiko Tanaka, who developed Ohio University’s exchange program with Chubu University in Japan and the Exchange Program for Developmentally Disabled and Elderly Citzens.
“It just threads itself into the fabric of the institution so well,” Sheets said. “It’s such a key spot, it’s a beautiful facility, it fits with the architecture, it enhances the green space and the connection to dining halls (and) Ping recreation center.”
During the event, police asked Student Union members to move to one side of the event. While they complied, they made they continued their presence until tours of the buildings commenced.
Arnold said he believes a RA union would create a fairer discipline process by giving resident assistants the ability to negotiate contracts and potentially bring in a third party.
“Right now, our contracts are negotiated with no one. (The Housing and Residence Life Central Business Office) makes them and gives them to us to sign with a thing at the bottom that’s like ‘This might change at any moment; don’t worry about it’ and that’s all,” Arnold said. “Also there’s no third party in the discipline process, so an RA can be fired for just about anything without any other input.”
Sheets said she did not know what the students were demonstrating for because she was unable to read the Student Union’s signs, but she said she was “just glad the students moved to the side so we could honor the families.”
“It’s a very special moment for them to have an opportunity for them to be honored here today,” she said.