“It wasn’t glitz and glam by any means” Oliver Alums share memories of the doomed dorm

Oliver Hall’s last semester open to students was in the Spring of 2019 | Photo by Wesley Cudney

With the demolition of Oliver Hall approved by the Kansas Board of Regents, Oliver alumni reached out to share their experiences with the University of Kansas’ once cheapest and closest community.

Cotterman Brant spent all four years of his time at KU in Oliver living with his brother. “With my brother being older, I was able to attend many football games and parties at the residence and grew to enjoy the campus life through much of my high school years,” Brant said in an email to the Open Kansan. “As a result, I decided to spend my first year at Oliver as well.”

Brant described his experience in Oliver as being different from his brother’s. “As it turns out, I was assigned the floor with KU’s swim, diving and track team,” Brant said. Since Brant was an athlete himself in high school, he said he felt at home with the athletic spirit of the floor and made many close friends.

The parties in the dorm eventually got out of control, Brant said. “Our parties began to resemble ‘Animal House’ and campus police frequently broke them up late in the morning,” Brant said. Eventually, the university had enough of Olive’s shenanigans. “By my second year, Oliver hall banned all athletes and parties leading to the most boring semester in the hall the following year,” Brant said.

John Hagan was a freshman in Oliver during the 1969 academic year and returned to be a residence assistant (RA) in 1972. “.  I met some great kids and wonderful RAs,” Hagan said in an email to the Open Kansan.

Hagan said he and the other RAs agreed that an all freshmen dorm was not a good idea after a rambunctious year that included water balloon and rubber band fights with the private dorm, Naismith Hall, across the street. “But it was neat seeing so many young men and women at age 18/19 with enthusiasm, energy, and angst,” Hagan said.

“It was a fun year for the staff and perhaps too much fun for the residents,” Hagan said. “I am sorry to see Oliver go, but not too surprised.”

A community lost

Student Body Vice President-elect Ethan Roark also lived in Oliver his second semester of his freshman year. Roark said he moved to Oliver because he had many friends there and wanted the experience. Roark described the building as historic. “You can tell there was sort of an entrenched res hall culture there that was kind of cool,” Roark said. “You felt a very strong sense of community in Oliver Hall.”

Anna Davis is a senior studying Biology, she lived in Oliver for the 2017 and 2018 academic years. Davis was the final president of Oliver Hall. Davis described it as an unique experience, and said Oliver was her favorite community on campus and was glad to be a bigger part of it.

When Davis lived in Oliver, the standard two person room was $4,616 in 2017 and $4,702 in 2018, the building’s final year housing residents, according to Student Housing info graphics.

Davis said her most stand out memory of Oliver was the people living there. “I feel like every dorm has its own collection of personalities and Oliver Hall had the most creative and easy-going people I have seen in college really,” Davis said in an interview with the Open Kansan. Davis said the people in Oliver were truly there for you, especially in those difficult, early years of college.

Davis said the building was in need of repairs and cleaning. “There were some moments living there where you do get what you pay for, but on the other note it is a public university with funding,” Davis said.

The humidity as the worst aspect of living in Oliver, Davis said. “I had to buy dehumidifiers for the room just to keep our stuff from getting wet.”

Even with the dorm’s drawbacks, Davis said news of Oliver’s impending demolition still hurt. “I know this sounds dramatic because it is just a building, but myself and a lot of my friends that I lived there with were honestly extremely kind of upset to hear about it,” Davis said.

There was also a personal factor to the pain, Davis said. “I feel like I really formed who I was as a person in my early years there at KU.”

Davis said every friend or friend group she has today is either the result of Oliver directly or from the connections made there.

Davis said the planned floor by floor demolition over the summer hurts as well. As a floor she has memories with this knocked off one by one. “That’s even kind of more heart breaking than just taking the building down.”

Davis spoke about the different experience new freshmen might have. “So I think what made Oliver all really unique really was the fact that it really was community living,” Davis said. “Scholarship halls have a lot of that kind of close community living but I feel like especially as far as the newer dorms you get your own room you get your own bathroom or you maybe have like 4 roommates you spend time with, you don’t really interact as a floor or across floors.”

Davis’ advice to freshmen living in the newer dorms is the advice she received as a freshman as well. To get out of your room and make an active effort to meet people on your floor and in your building.

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