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Student Center’s Future Considered at Meeting

By Melissa S. Cain


Administrators and students met in an open forum about redefining community space in the Stratton Student Center and Walker Memorial, to exchange input on the future of the two buildings.

Students came to the forum primarily to vent their concerns about specific day-to-day annoyances they have experienced on campus.

The panel seeking student input and answering questions consisted of Phillip J. Walsh, Director of the Campus Actitivities Complex, Executive Director of National Association of College Auxiliary Services Manuel Cunard, and Larry G. Trampe, a planner at Center Concepts & Design.

Walsh said that Dean Larry G. Benedict “asked us to look at the Student Center and Walker in terms of how they function separately and how they work together. We are also going to examine how they fit in to the new changes being made on campus such as the new athletic facility and Simmons Hall.”

He said the forum was held to get student opinion on these issues. “We want to lay out a vision for these two buildings,” said Walsh.

Students want performance space

The meeting involved some discussion about the need for more performance and practice space for student groups.

Jonathan Sheffi ’03 said that “performance space is sorely lacking” and added there are very few places to perform beyond large lecture halls, which have to be reserved far in advance.

Benjamin J. Zeskind ’03 said that he is in a group called Club Z that is going to have a “weekly jazz club type event on the first floor of the Student Center” and asked that the CAC look into adding a permanent space for these events when renovations are done to the building.

Walsh said the CAC realizes that performance space is difficult to find on campus and is currently looking into using the basketball court on the third floor of Walker for dance performance groups to practice on the weekends.

Students appreciate new lounge

One of the concrete changes that came out of the meeting was that the Transitions Lounge will now be open 24 hours a day.

Several students complimented the administration on the creation of the Transitions Lounge in the Student Center but complained that the hours were not conducive to their study patterns.

“Transitions is very useful,” said Stephen Shin ’01. “It is such a unique space because you can’t talk in the Reading Room or in libraries.” However, he asked why it closed at midnight.

According to Walsh, the Transitions Lounge was supposed to be open 24 hours a day, seven days a week since the sheeting covering the windows was removed and promised that “it will be open tonight.”

Shin also added that he liked Transitions because, as opposed to the libraries, “I can grab food and study there.”

Dining options questioned

Several students raised concerns about food service and the availability of different kinds of dining in the Student Center.

Jordan Rubin ’02 commented that “if I want to catch dinner in five or ten minutes in the Student Center, I can’t.”

Raymond Morales ’02 complained that prices are not uniform all over the campus. “Milk costs a different amount at every Aramark vendor ... they shouldn’t be competing with themselves,” he said.

Walsh said the CAC is trying to change many things about the food in the Student Center, including the possibility of contracting a service that brings in different franchises.

Much of the discussion centered around expanding the use of the MIT Card to other vendors, including those already present in the Student Center.

Morales said “Toscanini’s, La Verdes, and any new vendors are not going to survive if students can’t swipe their cards.”

Students disagree on renovations

Students had mixed opinions on the recent renovations to the Coffeehouse and the transformation of Networks restaurant into Courses.

When discussing the renovation of the Coffeehouse, Erin K. Shea ’02 said “it looks like a Starbucks.”

Shea used to frequent the Coffeehouse but said, “I don’t go there anymore because the new counters are too tiny to study on and it is too noisy.”

However, several other students supported the remodeling of the Coffeehouse.

“I like the Coffeehouse better now,” James J. O’Donnell ’01 said. “It is much nicer and more comfortable.”

Rubin agreed that he liked the renovations. “Shutting off service and keeping the space open for studying is really good,” he said. “I wonder if it could be done other places, like Tosci’s.”

Students had mostly negative comments about the renovations made to Networks.

Sheffi commented that while the old public address system in Networks was annoying, waiting for someone to call your name in Courses is even worse. “Why isn’t the number board that was supposed to be part of the renovations there?” he said.

Walsh answered that the message board was installed, but it didn’t work, so it had to be sent back to the company. He said “it should be working some time next week.”

Morales says he “misses the TVs from Networks” because it was a good place for people to congregate and suggested they be moved somewhere else in the Student Center.

Rubin also liked the idea of more accessible televisions in the common areas of the Student Center.

“I think there would have been a lot of interest in watching NCAA games this past weekend. This would be a good way for people to meet each other,” Rubin said.

Many students also suggested that the Student Center be more inviting from the inside and outside and generally agreed that the inside was too bland and needed color.

Several people were in favor of converting outdoor tennis courts into basketball courts, though the panel deferred these suggestions to the athletics department.

One student suggested putting a bowling alley in the basement of the Student Center, but Canard said that there have been bowling alleys in both Walker and the Student Center at different times and they were eliminated because they were not profitable.

Walker Memorial also discussed

Though the meeting tended to focus on the Student Center, there was discussion dealing with the need for major renovations of Walker.

Generoso Fiero, the station manager of MIT’s student radio station WMBR, located in the basement of Walker, was concerned about the lack of ventilation in the building.

“Walker is a very old building with no air conditioning. I worry about the equipment, especially in the summer when it is unbearable to be in the studio during the day,” Fiero said.

There were also a lot of concerns raised about Pritchard not getting funding for renovations.

Walsh acknowledged that Walker needs renovations. “The CAC will talk with East Campus and Senior House to get input on how to make more of Walker,” Walsh said. “We are also going to get the Student Programming Board to help make better use of the site, so it is not just for food.”