Mississippi State University’s Rice Hall, a traditional, all girls’ residence hall constructed in 1968, is tentatively scheduled for demolition over the coming summer.
According to Fred Mock, Housing and Residence Life’s associate director for Maintenance and Facilities, Housing and Residence Life is actively planning for the demolition of Rice, but other options for renovation and ongoing use of the building are still being discussed.
“There are many options being considered for the future of Rice, one of which is demolition. But, that’s by no means written in stone yet,” Mock said. “In housing, we had always planned eventually to take it offline, and you know there’s other university considerations, so whether it’s really going to be demolished or not, I can’t tell you. We are planning for that, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to necessarily happen.”
Dei Allard, executive director of Housing and Residence life, said while demolition is by no means definite, it is definitely the decision Housing and Residence Life is pursuing.
“It is not very certain. It’s certain in my point of view. In Housing, that’s definitely the direction we want to go, and that’s why we put in the work order to start the demolition process,” Allard said.
Both Allard and Mock would like to see the demolition of Rice occur over the coming summer.
“The hope is to do the whole demo this summer, so around May or June is the plan, but we’ve got to talk to the campus community to talk about some of their needs too,” Allard said.
Housing and Residence Life has endeavored to take Rice offline for years, and built Oak, Magnolia, Deavenport and Dogwood with the intention of vacating Rice, but rapid student population growth necessitated the continued use of Rice, Mock said. With the addition of the College View Apartments, demand has finally plateaued and Housing and Residence Life was able to take Rice offline this year.
Morgan Bishop, a junior psychology major, lived in Rice Hall her freshman year. While it was livable, it was not ideal, she said.
“I didn’t really like much about it. The hallways were always noisy because the doors had this weird cutout vent in it. So, light always came through it and it was so loud, even the janitors doing their morning routines, we could hear everything. The bathrooms weren’t that bad; they always kept it really clean, but, of course, no one likes the community bathroom. Also, everything was tile, like on the floor, so that made it really dirty It was just not an enjoyable time,” Bishop said.
If absolutely necessary, it would be fine to house students there again, Bishop said, but the building could definitely use some work.
“It was definitely livable I feel like. So, if we really needed housing I would say ‘yea no it’s no problem keep it up,’ but honestly no one wanted to be there. It needed some tender loving care for sure,” Bishop said.
According to Mock, there were no health concerns with Rice Hall. While several asbestos removal projects were completed throughout the years, the wiring was safe and the building had a full sprinkler system. However, if Rice was to continue being a residence hall, it would need extensive renovations.
“The building can definitely be renovated, that just becomes a cost decision for Housing. Is the amount of money we would spend renovating this building worth it, or is it better that we just use that money to build a completely new building? It needs to be completely gutted, just like Hathorn and Cresswell were. It needs to be rewired, air conditioning replaced, windows replaced, the bathrooms redone, just the whole shebang,” Mock said.
While Rice was one of the lowest cost housing options, Allard said taking that option away has, so far, not been a problem.
“I have not gotten requests from students or family members that are looking for more low-income options. We have looked at modifying some of our other options. So, McKee and Sessums hall,for example, we didn’t raise it as we’ve done with the other areas of a 3.5 % increase this year, and so we made a conscious effort over the next couple of years to get that into an area where we still accommodate for students that are looking for that low cost option, but acceptable accommodations as well,” Allard said.
Allard and Mock both hope a final decision on the fate of Rice can be reached by either January or February, so demolition can take place over the summer.
Allard, who personally hopes to see a multipurpose office and residence building built in Rice’s place, said it is not certain a new residence hall will be built on the site, as many other campus needs are to be considered.
According to Allard and Mock, some spacing adjustments have been made for the vacancy of Rice, including placing temporary roommates with an RA until a permanent living space is vacated.
“We ended up looking at different occupancy accommodations, so we have a couple of triple spaces here in Dogwood Hall for some of our first-year students. We had more temporary spaces that we should be clearing out this week, but that’s usual. That happens every year,” Allard said.