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Enrollment Down, Mizzou Draws Up a New Play

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On the morning of the Mizzou football game against South Carolina, Sharon Cloud walks out of her room in the Discovery Hall dormitory, eager to start tailgating.

It's been more than 50 years since Cloud was a student at the school. Her granddaughter Kellie moved a month ago to Columbia, where she would like to study nursing. Kellie doesn't live in Discovery Hall, though.

It is Cloud and her husband, Dennis, a fellow Mizzou alum, who are staying in a dorm room with two twin beds, two desks and two bulletin boards — arranged for roommates.

"We thought it would be a hoot to stay in a dorm again, and it's really nice," says Cloud, 71, who worked with her husband, a veterinarian, in his office before they both retired earlier this year.

The Wildwood resident explains that she has two daughters and two nieces who have attended the university. She and her husband were previously football season ticket holders for 30 years.

"I moved into Lathrop Hall when it was brand new and it was sparkly clean and we had open balconies on every two floors and we could look at the stadium," she recalls.

A residential life staff member overhears Cloud say that she'd lived in Lathrop, which has since been torn down. He asks her if she would like a brick from the building.

"Really?" Cloud asks.

The staff member asks Cloud which room she's in, and Cloud, assuming he means as a student, begins to tell him, "Seven-oh—," but then the staffer clarifies that he means in Discovery. Room 303, she says.

"When you come back, there will be a brick waiting for you at the desk," says Andrew Sommer, the financial officer for residential life.

"That's so nice of you!" Cloud says.

Sommer then asks if the couple needs a ride to the stadium in one of the golf carts standing outside the building.

"I can't say enough nice things about residential life," Cloud tells me a few days after the game. The other people I speak with who are staying in the dorms for the game also seem charmed by their extroverted brand of hospitality.

But there's some irony in the scenario. Some of the people who are most excited about coming to the football games and staying in a dorm are also those who are most upset about the reasons the rooms are available: a significant drop in enrollment following the 2015 protests over the administration's handling of allegations of racism on campus.

"I'm very disappointed that the university has suffered so much," Cloud says.

"But I think it's going to respond," Dennis Cloud adds.

"It should, but it will hurt it," Cloud says. She cites a daughter who works in higher education: "She said things like these are very hard to overcome because you lose your momentum."

"We better go," Dennis says.

There are still more than six hours until kick-off.

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