'Absolutely 100 percent better than the other dorms'
CHAMPAIGN — Steve Jarva's air-conditioned, four-person suite has two bathrooms with double sinks, a living room and a pretty spectacular view of Memorial Stadium.
Welcome to dorm life, 2013 — for the lucky ones, at least.
Jarva is a resident adviser — known better as an RA — on the top floor of Bousfield Hall, the newest University of Illinois residence hall at the corner of First Street and Peabody Drive.
His digs are a far cry from his room last year at the 1950s-era Forbes Hall, which was demolished over the summer.
"I would say it's definitely an upgrade for us," Jarva said, commiserating Thursday with fellow RA Kevin Hauger, 19, also a sophomore and Forbes transplant.
"You could say we got lucky," Hauger agreed.
The six-story residence hall, with a capacity of almost 500 students, opened this month as part of the Ikenberry Commons redevelopment. Rooms are arranged in suites of four with two bathrooms and a central living area, similar to many student apartments.
"I love it," Hauger said. "It feels more like home."
There are no cement block walls, for one. Rooms have laminate wood floors instead of vinyl tile, and the ceilings are higher so the rooms feel bigger, Hauger said.
"You can bunk your beds and you're not right on the ceiling," Jarva said.
Also missing: that dorm smell.
"It smells clean," Hauger said. "I'm almost a little afraid to ding the walls."
It's also more expensive — about $850 a year higher than a traditional air-conditioned double room.
Associate Housing Director Kirsten Ruby dislikes the term "luxurious," saying, "It's new, it's clean, it's comfortable. But it's not outrageous."
Bousfield is open to sophomores and above. Hauger said the university prefers that freshmen live in residence halls with older-style dorm rooms and common bathrooms, to encourage more mingling.
Forbes' residents had first dibs on Bousfield, and it filled the first day registration opened, Ruby said.
The building got high marks from students moving in Thursday, which was also official move-in day for about 7,000 new freshmen.
"It's nice and fresh," said junior Clare Mazurkiewicz, hauling a cart of belongings down the carpeted hallway to her suite of four singles.
Each room has a bed that can be raised if needed, as well as a desk, drawers and closet. The tiled bathrooms have separate rooms for the shower and toilet.
"I love it. It's awesome," she said.
Mazurkiewicz transferred to the UI from Monmouth College last year and lived with three roommates in a triple-sized room at Bromley Hall, a private certified residence hall. She liked it, but "living with all the freshmen was just. ... They were just always loud, all the time," she said.
She likes the new apartment arrangement, which offers more privacy.
"It's absolutely 100 percent better than the other dorms on campus," said sophomore David Mielnik.
He likes the extra space and the air conditioning — a highly rated feature for all students.
"Last year the first two weeks (of school) I couldn't sleep without sweating," Hauger said. "Now I wake up cold."
Jarva can see most of the stadium, though not the field, out his sixth-floor window, but the best views are down the hall where the new scoreboard and part of the south end zone are visible.
From other rooms students can look out and see the green roof over the lobby, or the grassy area in the middle of the new Ikenberry Commons — where vans full of student belongings were being unloaded with help from Illini Guides.
The building also has quiet study lounges with dry-erase boards, several lounges per floor and elevators, which came in handy on Thursday.
Ruby said Bousfield was designed based on what students wanted, but "they're going to define how they use the space."