Dorm 7, a two-story male residence hall on the Circle, received a startling announcement Friday, Oct. 19 in Convocation: the residence hall was to be evacuated due to structural damage.
According to Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr., the engineers overseeing the dorm restoration believe the earth underneath the dorm has been shifting recently, causing the foundation to settle too much.
J.O. Renalds, the director of Field Operations, said indications of settling include “cracks in the walls and floors opening up over time and some settling of portions of the first floor concrete slab.”
Director of Planning and Construction Charles Spence offered two possible explanations for the shifting of the earth: poor soil compaction from when the dorm was built 30 years ago and dry soil from the recent drought. He said the dorm’s proximity to the ravine is not a factor.
Spence affirmed that other dorms on the Circle are safe, including the other two-story Dorms, 2, 5 and 13.
Falwell, Jr. said the plan now is to permanently repair the building instead of temporarily fixing it, as originally stated. According to Spence, construction crews will take out the elements that are broken, such as cracked cinder blocks, and replace them.
“We’ve started some of the demolition work to open up points where we will install structural support rods that will stabilize the building,” Spence said.
He also said there is no expected completion date for the renovations.
The dorm is home to approximately 130 students total who are now being housed in open rooms all over campus, whether on Campus East, the Hill dorms or elsewhere on the Circle, according to Haoyung Chien, the Associate Director for Student Leadership.
Campus Pastor Dwayne Carson said the biggest challenge was finding open places for the students to stay in dorms that are mostly full.
Carson also said that the keys for the students’ new room assignments were quickly made available.
“This has affected almost every male on campus,” Carson said.
Jeremy Lemon, a junior on the second floor, expressed disappointment over the event.
“We all just miss being together,” he said.
Lemon is temporarily living in Dorm 32-1.
Lemon described the floor of room 108 in Dorm 7, which he said slants like a hill.
He said, “We knew it was an old dorm, but we didn’t think much about it. We never knew this would happen.”
Second-floor resident James Kimmey, now living on Dorm 9, was also disappointed.
“We don’t care where we live as long as we’re together,” he said. “A lot of the guys are sad because we have to travel across campus to see one of our friends we could see before on an hourly basis.”
Kimmey said the Dorm 7 guys had to move most or all of their belongings out in a matter of hours.
“Students from all over campus came and helped us move,” he said.
Kimmey left a recliner in his room, which he was told may or may not survive the reconstruction process.
Both Lemon and Kimmey said they knew about the cracks last year before deciding to live on Dorm 7 again.
Various photos on the Facebook group “Dorm 7: The Dispersion” show the cracks in detail, some of which are about as wide as a quarter. Another photo shows a half-inch lip in the floor which had been covered with a rug.
The two halls still sit together for Convocation and hold their weekly hall meetings and prayer groups in DeMoss.
First floor Resident Assistant Parker Jones said God is using this situation to draw the guys on 7-1 closer together.
“I was worried about this splitting our dorm apart,” he said, “but I’ve never seen the guys more excited to see each other in convo or even around campus.”
Kimmey is trying to stay positive about the event.
“We don’t care about the cracks,” he said. “We just want the issue resolved.”
Contact Charles S. Goss at email@example.com.