Tales of the Tower: Housing officials look to change perceptions of PFT

Herald File Photo

Katherine Wade

Pearce-Ford Tower has lived through almost 40 years of rumors and a growing reputation.

Whether they’ve lived there or not, most students at WKU have heard stories about PFT, both positive and negative. But reasons for the many perceptions of the building can be traced back to its early years.

Kit Tolbert, director of housing operations for Housing and Residence Life, said that when it opened in the early 1970s, PFT was a single-gender dorm.

“It was all male, and most of them were 18 years old, away from home for the first time, so just get a picture of that,” she said.

Tolbert said making the change to co-ed was one of the challenges the building has faced because it had the mystique of being all male for so long.

In recent years, HRL has made many changes in an attempt to improve not only the conditions of living at PFT, but also the perceptions surrounding it.

In 2007, floors 18 through 27 in the building were renovated, and the remaining floors were renovated the next year. The $15 million process included adding community space on every four floors and kitchens on every floor, improving the bedrooms, bathrooms and lobby, and landscaping the area outside the building.

HRL Director Brian Kuster said they hoped the renovations would draw more students to the building.

Danville sophomore Noelle Johnson lives on the 8th floor of PFT and said before she came to WKU, the only thing she’d heard about the building was that it was newly renovated.

Once she moved to campus, she heard some negative stories, but she said her experience living there has been different.

“It’s not like that anymore, and it’s really not bad,” she said. “I think it still has those bad ideas because of the way it used to be. But if you put so many people in one building, there’s bound to be things that happen.”

Chris Jensen, coordinator for HRL, agreed and said he thought PFT was struggling to overcome 30 years of opinions about a building that has really changed over time.

“When I talk to students, their opinions are formed from graduate students or their parents who went here,” he said. “And when I talk to parents … I say, ‘Have you seen the building? have you seen the renovations?’ And they say, ‘No, I haven’t been in the building in 20-something years.'”

Tolbert said PFT’s reputation doesn’t end on WKU’s campus.

“It’s prevalent in every high school in Kentucky that’s ever had someone live in PFT years ago,” she said. “They’ve told the stories. So people come here with an impression.”

Tolbert said she doesn’t expect PFT’s reputation to improve until the current group of students have graduated and spread the word.

One of those students may be Johnson, who said she loves living in PFT.

“PFT is a great community,” she said. “We have great hall directors. On my floor, the 8th floor, we know everybody. Maybe I just got lucky with my floor, but I love it.”