When initial plans to move the Vassar bookstore in 2013 from its location in the basement of Main began to develop, there was interest in collecting student feedback about the use of space at Vassar. At this time Jason Rubin ’13, former VSA President, sent a survey about student spaces to students when the idea of the bookstore relocation was first proposed. The results of this survey, as well as discussion in focus groups, were used to determine what sort of student spaces would be best placed in the former office spaces. The consensus from these surveys was that student wanted spaces to fit their varying needs, such as areas for orgs to meet and for music groups to practice.
While things have since continued to shift around campus from year to year, one fact remains the same: There is not enough student space, seen in the lack of group study areas, rehearsal space and café or lounge facilities. Students have continually be promised more space on campus, yet the College continues to change their plans regarding this issue.
At the VSA Council meeting on Sunday March 29, Assistant Dean of the College and Director of Campus Activities Terry Quinn came in to discuss upcoming projects in her department. As a member of the College Planning Committee, Quinn informed the council of the upcoming changes in the College Center to be implemented this summer. One main change Quinn discussed was the use of the basement level of Main, which is currently the location of the biology labs, and formerly the student bookstore. Over the upcoming summer, the basement will be turned into a “student-centered space” for a variety of resources for the students, including the mailroom.
Quinn did mention that the plans for the College Center renovation would be published for students to see after they were decided upon, but that doesn’t help the current situation. Rather than receiving students’ input after plans have been drawn up, the time is now for student voices to be heard and taken into consideration, especially considering the upcoming renovations.
Last semester, at the VSA council meeting on Sunday Nov. 9, the Council had a forum with Art Lidsky, President of Dober Lidsky Mathey, a firm hired by the College to assist with campus strategic planning and to help create the master plan for the College. In this meeting, Lidsky wanted feedback about what concerns students have about the use of space on campus. Much of the discussion in the forum was concerning the lack of student spaces on campus, especially in Main.
When the bookstore was moved to its current location from the basement of Main, students, who had filled out surveys with their opinions on Vassar’s use of space, were told that student space would be a priority in planning for the future of the space. However, a one-stop shop space is not a student space – it is another office space located in the central campus building, in space that could be well utilized to satisfy student needs. Students were told that the bookstore was going to be moved, displacing The Juliet—a popular billiards place in Arlington—under the guise of creating a new student space, and instead, this space was first converted to the current biology labs below Main and will now be turned into administrative offices.
Many student spaces have been displaced throughout Vassar’s recent history. The student’s building, now the location of the ACDC, was originally constructed with funding to specifically make it a student space. However it is now a space that is only open during dining hours. Group study spaces were removed from the library to make space for offices. Offices constructed on the second and third floors of the College Center to be student spaces are inadequate, and many of the meeting spaces are too often booked by faculty and administrators. The plan for this summer which will turn the basement of Main into a “one-stop-shop” for the Vassar community will also create areas for administrative offices. We at The Miscellany News believe that by turning another space into offices for the College, the administration is showing a lack of dedication to the creation and preservation of student spaces on campus.
Moving numerous offices that are currently located on the first floor of Main, like the mailroom, copy center, and media resources, could potentially create new student spaces to replace the offices in their current location. We at The Miscellany News believe that if the Administration decides to go through with moving offices to the basement, their former spaces should be used to create new student spaces, that is, spaces for students designed and used by students.
Most colleges have dedicated student spaces, meant to be used for group projects or as casual student retreats. While some dorms, like Davison, have dedicated studies on each floor for students to use, many dorms around campus fail to have more than just an MPR and parlor for studying. Vassar has continuously failed to provide this type of space to students. Instead, the College continues to ask for what the students want and then ignore their needs in lieu of making more space for Vassar Administration.
We at The Miscellany News agree that the new one-stop shop could be beneficial to remedying the problems of crowding in the College Center, especially on Tuesdays when the lines from the mailroom, Kiosk, and Tasty Tuesday can make entering the College Center difficult. This can make the space very difficult to use and navigate. However, making this space less crowded will require more than moving the mailroom downstairs. The centralizing of offices used by students is meant to make the College work more efficiently, but it’s unclear at this point if this is what students want. Perhaps most students would prefer to be slightly inconvenienced when walking through the College Center and would like to have more dedicated student spaces rather than to have a clearer College Center with nowhere to study.