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Schine Hall

A relic of the past, a symbol of hope for the future

On December 5, 2011

The University of Bridgeport (UB) has made tremendous strides in recovering from its economic downturn in the early 90s, as evidenced by the rise in enrollment and recent renovations of Cooper and Chaffee Hall.

However, one building on the campus stands as a reminder of all the turmoil the University underwent: Isaac E. Schine Hall, right across the street from the Arnold Bernhard Center (ABC).

Closed down since 1992, the 10 floor building stands in stark contrast to the liveliness of the rest of the campus. As one walks up the building, they can notice the blue graffiti on the bricks on the right side. The white pain on the panels has begun to chip off. The iron doors at the front and back of the building have rusted, and many of the windows have been boarded up. Structural flaws within the building have prevented it from being used.

The name of the building came from Isaac E. Schine, who was one of the founders of the Junior College of Connecticut in 1927, and served on the board of trustees through it becoming UB in 1947.  He also served on the board of directors at the Bridgeport Hospital.

Construction on the building started in January of 1969, but not without controversy. Students protested the building of Schine Hall, by organizing a sit-in at Cortright Hall, much as they had done during the building of Bruel and Rennell halls.

This did not stop or delay construction, and it was eventually completed in February 1971. The building was dedicated in honor of Schine a year later.

The building was originally designed as a co-educational hall, housing both upperclassmen and graduate students.

It was designed to house 500 students, and it featured game rooms, student lounges, and a private rooftop.

George Estrada, Vice President of Facilities, said the building design was different from other dormitories on the campus at the time, in that a typical floor featured three separate wings for students.

"The construction of that building is what they called pods," he said. "There are three pods that can operate independently from one another."

During the building's 21 years, it was considered an active place on campus. Mark Gereb, an '85 graduate of UB, said he lived in Schine Hall for three years and loved it.

"It was quite a place in those days," Gereb said via a Facebook message. "In 83-84, it was a well-known place for fire alarms at all times."

Gereb said he acted as a president of the dormitory in his senior year, and ran a snack bar in the basement of Schine Hall, called Isaac's Place.

The university ran into many troubles in the late 1980s which led to a radical drop in enrollment. According to a December 24, 1991 article from the New York Times, enrollment had dropped from 9,100 students in 1969 to 3,800 students for the 1991 fall semester, including only 1,300 fulltime undergraduates.

Estrada said it forced the university to make many tough decisions.

"One of those decisions was to close both the Arnold Bernhard Center and Schine [Hall]," he said.

The Arnold Bernhard Center was reopened several years later, because of it served important academic functions.

Schine Hall was not seen as important, because at the time, the university had many other residential halls: Warner (now the Health Sciences Center) Hall, Cooper Hall, Chaffee Hall, North and South Halls, Bodine Hall, and Barnum and Seeley Halls.

Estrada said that they hope to begin planning for Schine Hall's reactivation within the next five years, provided enrollment increases enough to create the need for more housing. The renovation would cost around $25 million, far more than renovations to Cooper and Chaffee Hall, in part because of the building's size.

He also said that the plan is to bring it back as a student dormitory, but in the model of suite-style apartments, which would feature three to four bedrooms around a living area, private bathrooms, and a small kitchen area in each apartment.

Estrada believes Schine Hall represents a symbol of opportunity to come for the university.

"That building will be the legacy of incredible growth the university has undertaken in the last 10 years," he said.

Gereb hopes the dormitory will be reopened soon.

"I would love to see my old home," he said.

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