Pei dorms to receive new furniture for Fall semester

Southwest Contract boasted furniture with inset casters that allow students, maintenance and custodial staff to easily move pieces around.

After more than 18 years, the furniture in Pei is finally moving out. The Office of Housing and Residential Life hosted two bidding furniture companies on campus last month, inviting a panel of staff, residential advisors (RA) and students to evaluate presentations and two sample showrooms set up by the respective bidders.

“Our goal is to maximize the space,” Campus Life Coordinator Aaron Baker said. The two companies, Southwest Contract and PRIDE, were instructed to create furniture that would comfortably accommodate three people to a room and understand the intricacies of the architecture in the Pei dorms.

“The space in Pei is very flat, it’s very 2D, so we really wanted to make use of the whole space,” Baker said.

Both Southwest and PRIDE have provided furniture for New College in the past. PRIDE, more recently, furnished the Dort and Goldstein residence halls while Southwest provided the furniture for the letter dorms and some of the original furnishings in Pei.

PRIDE, the acronym of the Prison Rehabilitative Industries and Diversified Enterprises, is a non-profit corporation authorized by the Florida Legislature in 1981 to manage and operate state prison industries. One of the company’s selling points was its solid wood construction, which makes the furniture resilient to time and weather.

Southwest Contract, a Texas-based company, specializes in furniture for university residence halls. “Furniture in residence halls, not lots of companies do that … Southwest is very connected to this industry – higher education residence halls, and because of that
they have a lot of offerings, they can provide a decent price point, they’re very customizable,” Baker said.

In Southwest’s plan, all three beds would be lofted. Aware that some students may be hesitant to sleeping up high, the company made the beds adjustable and each model brings bed rails.

Although several other companies came up as options, PRIDE’s affiliation with the state and Southwest’s statewide contract allow both companies to make the vending process easier or the school.

“It’s so difficult because you could have whatever you imagine, and there’s pros and cons with everything and so it’s really just like what can we settle on that is the best,” Baker said.

Student input will be a big part of the decision. “I think that student feedback is really important to [Director of Purchasing Mark Lillquist],” Baker said. “Especially [when] comparing the two and trying to find the best combination of furniture.”

The showrooms, one in third court and the other in first court, have been open for interested students to take a look, and the New College Student Alliance has been given a formal tour of the spaces. At the showing, attendants were asked for opinions on each piece of furniture on feedback sheets.

“I felt like Southwest, their stuff was more sturdy. And having lived in the letter dorms I think it’s really good quality furniture. I really liked it; I think it’s going to really improve Pei. The other company – PRIDE – I thought they sold their idea really well but the furniture itself couldn’t sell itself because it’s not as sturdy, it’s not as good a quality. I just wasn’t as impressed with the PRIDE furniture,” RA Lynn Gusman said after viewing both presentations.

As for the current furniture in Pei, B Dorm is to inherit some of the pieces in good condition. “The plan is to dispose of what’s not usable and donate what they can to the Salvation Army,” Baker said.

Although it is rumored that Southwest is the cheaper of the two options, the director of purchasing has the exact figures. At press time, Lillquist was on vacation and unavailable for comment. Housing would like to encourage students to give feedback and opinions on the furniture before final decisions are made.

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