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A complex case of repurposing Sharples

in Columns/Op-Eds/Opinions by

Dining halls shape your college experience. Not only does it provide you with the food you need to sustain your daily routine, it also serves as a social space where students can relax, hang out together, or meet new faces they have never seen on a daily basis. With this importance in mind, we can see how Sharples, as the only dining hall at Swarthmore, influences the social dynamic within our institution. Therefore, when Swarthmore announced its plan on November 28 to construct a new dining hall and convert Sharples into a student union, everyone should supposedly feel delighted. Finally, we will have better food. Finally, we need not rush to Sharples right after our last morning class. Finally, we can linger at our dining table as much as we want because our new dining hall is large enough for every student. This article argues that these dining hall improvements are unlikely to happen if Swarthmore pursues its current construction plan. Therefore, Swarthmore should situate the student union inside the new building and renovate Sharples instead.

To begin with, let’s examine the two arguments in support of building a new dining hall: Sharples is overcrowded because it supports only 900 students, and it does not support individualized cooking. Both arguments may not necessarily be the case. Indeed, it is true that the number of Swarthmore students exceeds the maximum capacity of Sharples. However, not all students dine at the same time. Consider two students, the first’s morning class ends at 11:10AM on Tuesday, and the second’s morning class ends at 12:35PM. Even if both students usually have lunch, they will rarely have lunch at the same time because of their schedule. Moreover, Swarthmore has many dining options aside from Sharples: Indian and Chinese food ordered from off campus providers in Kohlberg and the Science Center, and some grab-and-go food both at Sharples and beside SCI199. Therefore, it is extremely unlikely that Sharples has to serve lunch to 1500 students simultaneously. Because Sharples is less crowded during breakfast and dinner, the same reasonings still hold. From my experience, even when Sharples becomes extremely crowded, the maximum time I spend waiting on the line is less than ten minutes and I never have trouble finding a place to sit. Therefore, simply because the new dining hall would serve more students does not sufficiently justify its construction. The congestion is not as severe as it is portrayed.

Moving on the second argument: Sharples does not support individualized cooking. This argument is true for current Sharples; offering an individualized cooking in a dining hall where students occasionally have to spend ten minutes to get food is impractical. However, if Swarthmore wishes to offer individualized cooking, the College can simply renovate Sharples, for instance, by relocating some of the tables more closely with one another. There are many unoccupied spaces that can potentially be renovated to create an individualized cooking space. Even if this individualized cooking space may not be as spacious as those at our peer institution, it can still be created.

With the idea that Sharples’ condition is not as severe as people usually claim established, this article will argue that the geography of current Sharples makes it difficult to have any broad space necessary for a student union. As of now, Sharples has the two floors: the upper floor has two meeting rooms, whereas the first floor serves food and provides tables for its guests. Recognize that both the meeting rooms upstairs are relatively small in comparison to other areas inside Sharples. Therefore, if Swarthmore proceeds with its proposed plan, the first floor at current Sharples will be the heart of the new student center. What does this mean? The two rooms (salad bar and Room 004) on the first floor are so disconnected from other sections that they will hardly be of any use. For such sections as the food service and the quieter dining room, they are not large enough for students to gather together. With these constraints of current Sharples, it can be concluded that Swarthmore must spend a significant amount of resource into re-organizing Sharples in order to construct a suitable space for a student union. Therefore, it is more reasonable to construct a new building as a space for student union.

Because Sharples is designed as a dining hall, it takes more resources to convert current Sharples into a student union than to renovate spaces inside the building. Congestion and individualized cooking may be some of the drawbacks Sharples has, but they do not create so many problems that a new dining hall must be built. In essence, Swarthmore students want two things: better food and more spaces for social gathering. These goals can be reached more efficiently if we utilize buildings in the ways they are originally designed: Sharples for food and a new building for a new student union.

BEP phase one comes to a close

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On the northwest corner of campus, construction for the new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology building persists as the fall semester comes to an end. Since enrollment has risen for the biology, engineering, and psychology departments, BEP is being built to provide these departments with more space.  

BEP is in part the result of Eugene Lang’s $50 million donation, the largest gift in the college’s history, and is to house the biology, engineering, and psychology departments. It is expected to be completed by fall of 2020 with the first stage opening up summer of 2019. BEP will be a five-story building with one floor below ground. The building is expected to have meeting spaces, lecture halls, classrooms, a greenhouse, and a solar lab.

According to Carr Everbach, head of the engineering department, after student protests for divestment in 2013, the college’s Board of Managers agreed to allot additional money to equip BEP with more environmentally sustainable features.

“This process of defining what BEP was going to be continued until the spring of 2013 in which Mountain Justice and other students asked the Board of Managers to divest from all fossil fuel stocks and the Board of Managers refused. There were subsequent protests and possibly as related consequence of those concerns the Board of Managers agreed to allocate an additional $12 million to make it [BEP] as environmentally sustainable as possible,” Everbach said.

According to Larry Warner, the BEP project manager with Skanska — the firm managing construction for the BEP project — the college was proactive about implementing these environmentally sustainable features.

“One thing the college has asked the design team and construction team to come up with is a way to monitor the energy savings of the building. A lot of the systems, like the mechanical and electrical systems, are designed in a way to be energy efficient. Each of these components was built with energy efficiency in mind,” Warner said.

Andrew Ward, head of the psychology department, looks forward to these characteristics of the new building.

The sustainable aspects of the new construction, including climate control provided by geothermal wells, is a boon to Swarthmore,” Ward said in an e-mail.

As a psychology professor, Ward has been involved in the planning process for the building for several years.

The psychology department was formerly housed in Papazian Hall. After the destruction of Papazian to make space for the BEP building, the department was, and currently is, housed in Whittier Hall. With the creation of a new shared space, Ward also looks forward to the potential collaborative work between the biology, engineering, and psychology departments in the new building.

“[Psychology, biology, engineering] department members will, for the first time in many decades, have offices on the same floor as one another, making it easier for us to engage in informal contact with each other,” Ward said. “At the same time, the sharing of a building with biology and engineering promises to enhance collaboration between our departments. With the growth of interdisciplinary initiatives in such fields as neuroscience and cognitive science, we believe that being in the same building with faculty and students in related fields will be a tremendous asset to us and to the college.”

Everbach echoes this sentiment about prospective cooperation between departments.

The biology, engineering, and psychology departments have all functioned very separately both curricularly and in different buildings. There are some connections between them but they have been remote, but by putting them in the same space there will be opportunities for collaboration, discussion, and possibly for co-teaching and co-projects. I think at the very least, students from these departments will be intermingling and interacting and there will be some effect on the faculty and the curriculum because of that,” Everbach said.

Everbach also notes the benefits that a new space will offer the engineering department.

“Biology and psychology have a space and a quality of space problem. Hicks Hall is a stone box with little opportunity for moving the walls around inside or adding on things,” Everbach said “BEP will offer more square feet, more high-quality square feet, and more flexible and reconfigurable square feet.”

Nick Kaplinsky, associate biology professor and the department’s representative for the BEP project, also noted the lack of space in Martin Hall, the building currently housing the biology department.

“Everyone in the department has deep historical attachments to Martin Hall. But Martin’s lack of space and age place limitations on what we’d like to do and so it is time for a new building,” Kaplinsky said in an email. “We will have more space and, in many cases, labs that are customized for the particular types of experiments that are being taught by individual faculty members. An example of this is that in our current building there is no classroom where we can have 12 students working with soil. BEP will have one.”

Though many are excited by the prospect of a new building, the construction process can be lengthy and disruptive for some.

“It’s a painful process getting those nice facilities and we’ve already suffered some this semester with construction, and we’ll have to endure two more years of it. We do understand that construction is dangerous, noisy, and messy and that we have to tough it,” Everbach said.

Warner says that certain precautions are being taken to ensure that the construction process is not overly disruptive to the students or faculty.

“One of the things we take into consideration is the disruptions to the community. A lot of the planning that occurs behind the scenes is about how we limit the disruptions to the community,” Warner said. “It starts with our deliveries: there are large signs that tell trucks where they can and cannot go. All of that was coordinated with the borough of Swarthmore and the college.”

Currently, the BEP building is in Phase One of construction. According to Janet Semler, the director of capital planning and project management at Swarthmore, Phase One involves constructing permanent foundation walls for the basement floor of the building.

In the next few weeks, however, the next phase of the process will begin: the erection of structural steel, the columns and beams that will form the skeleton of the building. This next stage in the construction process is expected to continue throughout the spring semester before decking and roofing is installed in the summer.

For the time being, the sounds of construction and the flying dust will continue even as the semester comes to a close.

College to make plans to build new dining hall, update Sharples

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Next semester, the college will begin the planning process to build a new dining hall and renovate Sharples as a student union space.

In the last few years, the college has created two comprehensive reports about necessary improvements to the campus and student life in general: the Campus Master Plan in 2013, and the Student Experience Visioning Study Report in Feb. 2017. These two reports cover a wide variety of issues and include input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni.

The reports includes recommendations ranging from “adjustment in faculty members’ teaching load,” to making McCabe more open and limiting the “fortress-like appearance.” Both reports also included much about the need for a change in the way food is served on campus, and the need for a student union space. The new construction project is meant to address these problems.

“We engaged both a dining consultant and an architect last summer just to give us some ideas and I’d say sort of the key findings there was that the existing Sharples building has outlived its useful life as a dining hall,” said Greg Brown, Vice President for Finance and Administration.

Sharples was built in the 1960s and was designed to hold around 900 students. As the college has grown and student preference has changed, the building has seen different limitations. Both the design and the size of Sharples lead to limitations. The small size makes it difficult for students and faculty to find a place to sit and enjoy themselves while eating.

“In my experience meal time is one of the few times where students really give themselves permission to [give themselves a break], and if we don’t have enough space where students feel like they can linger a little bit and have those conversations about the seminar or what’s going to be happening this weekend, it really takes away from one of the most important opportunities for those kinds of connections that we think are so crucial to [students’] experience” said Liz Braun, Dean of Students.

In addition to the size, the construction of the serving room leads to limitations in how food can be served. According to Brown, many peer institutions are utilizing more individualized cooking methods that are not feasible in Sharples.

The current plan is to continue serving food in Sharples as the new dining hall is being constructed. Once the new building is complete, food service will move, and Sharples will be renovated and turned into a student union space.

This will allow the college to meet the demand for both a better dining facility and a student union. Until it burned down in the mid 1980s, Old Tarble served as a student union space where people could gather in a social capacity. The two reports show that students and alumni believe the campus is missing this kind of space now.

“The space in Clothier that includes Essie Mae’s and [Paces] was intended to replace that and it does certain things well but it really doesn’t function as a student union, and that was the feedback we heard over and over again from students, and then we heard it also when we were talking to alums, gosh what’s really missing from campus is a place. A place where we can gather as a student body,” said Brown.

Planning for this project will begin next semester. Brown stressed that the college has an aggressive plan to try to complete the project as quickly as possible, but estimates that the planning process will take at least one year with the construction of the new dining hall taking approximately one year to 18 months after the planning.This means that the earliest the new dining hall could open up would be in Spring of 2020 with the Sharples renovation following that.

Brown and Braun both recognize the importance of finding a balance between the needs of current students and future students.

“I think we’ve also tried to be thoughtful about a balance of longer term projects and also shorter term projects that can provide more immediate benefits to current students. So when you think about some of the smaller residence hall renovations that we’ve been able to do, the matchbox went up pretty quickly, Sprowl’s going to be open in a year. So I think we’ve tried to create a mix of opportunities, some things that students will be able to access in their time,” said Braun.

In addition to the new dining hall and Sharples renovation, the college is also beginning to think about plans for Martin once Biology moves into the BEP, what upgrades can be done to athletic facilities, and upgrades to the libraries. While designing these projects, the college focuses on designing spaces that can be flexible throughout time.  

“The other thing we have to recognize is what students want today both in terms of classroom space and social space and residence hall space might not be what students want 15 years from now, 30 years from now, so every project that we’re doing we’re trying to build in a level of flexibility so that if in 10 years from now students wanted to use things in a different way it would be relatively easy to convert it or to kind of reimagine how something’s set up,” said Braun.

Students who are interested in getting involved in renovating Sharples and building a new dining hall can join SGO’s Sharples Renovation Committee.

College makes progress on multiple construction projects

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On Wednesday, Sept. 6, members of the college administration held a press briefing to address recent and ongoing construction projects on campus.

The briefing focused on six major projects, which included renovations to existing buildings and spaces as well as the construction of new buildings or the repurposing of old ones.

This past summer, Papazian Hall was torn down to make room for its replacement, a new building slated for completion in 2020 that will be named the Biology, Engineering, and Psychology (BEP) building. According to material prepared by the office of Vice President of Finance & Administration Greg Brown, BEP will serve as an interdisciplinary space to strengthen connections between academic departments across campus.

While construction will be performed year-round over the next three years, Brown said the college aims for the work to be as least invasive as possible.

“We try to do things as quickly as possible and we try to do the busiest and noisiest work in the summer months when [students are] not here,” Brown said.

In the final phase of the building’s construction, Hicks Hall will come down while the faculty offices and common spaces of the new building will inhabit Hicks’ footprint.

Whittier Hall opened in spring 2017 as a tentative placeholder for BEP while it is under construction. It presently houses psychology department offices as well as the engineering shop, though after the opening of BEP, it will transition to its designated use as a studio space for the art department.

“It is a very flexibly designed building so that it can fulfill multiple purposes over time,” Brown said.

Whittier is one of the first buildings on campus to adhere to the college’s new sustainability framework. It includes a variety of features such as solar power, aggressive storm water management, ground source heating and cooling, and a high-performing envelope.

Along with academic buildings, the PPR Apartment construction project, initially slated for completion before the start of the fall semester, was delayed by 6-8 weeks due to a failed steel subcontractor. According to Brown, the project remains under budget despite delay.

“There are a few things that still have yet to be finished and we are working on those,” said Brown. He noted that the furniture that will be in the living rooms has been back-ordered, and that the building is still being commissioned.

The apartments are also designed to have a variety of sustainability features. In the construction of the building, the baseball outfield was dug up and then replaced again in order to put in a geothermal well field. In addition, the rooftops have easily identifiable solar panels.

“They’re probably the most obvious solar panels on campus,” observed Brown. “One of the things we try to do in our construction is think about the educational component, so being able to see the solar panels I think reminds everybody that we’re actually committed to sustainability and we’re working on it.”

Several renovations were performed in Palmer and Pittenger over this past summer, such as bathroom renovations. In addition, a link is being built between the two buildings that will be accessible from the courtyard by a ramp.

ADA Program Coordinator Susan Smythe noted that the project was not completed in conjunction with the opening of the apartments so that construction efforts could be focused on the more extensive project.

“We made the triage decision to finish New PPR rather than keep the link on the same schedule. We’re now putting full attention over there,” said Smythe.

Sproul Hall is in the process of being repurposed into a shared space for the Intercultural Center, religious and spiritual life, and International Student Services. It will be renamed the Hormel-Nguyen Intercultural Center after the two alumni donors who financed its renovation.

“From the Deans’ office and the college’s perspective, we think this is going to be a wonderful way for students to get together and really so that there can be cross group communication and collaboration,” said Brown.

The telescope also came out of the roof this summer, and was donated to Supporting STEM and Space Inc. to be relocated to a community in Northwest Arkansas.

Janet Semler, the Director of Capital Planning & Project Management, believed that the repurposing of the telescope would inspire the members of the Arkansas community.

“It [ignites] all these young people’s interest in astronomy, and that’s what makes it so cool, that they’re using it as an educational tool,” said Semler.

Swarthmore’s recent renovations and ongoing construction projects will create new spaces for the campus community and in some cases bring new purpose to old ones.

Construction for new apartments causes move-in delays

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Students slated for early move-in to the new PPR apartments will have to wait an extra week to be given access to the new dorm.

Fifteen students were scheduled to move into new PPR on Saturday, August 19. Isaiah Thomas, Assistant Director of Residential Communities, said the new apartments are now scheduled to open on Saturday, Aug. 26.

Early arrival students who are approved and scheduled to arrive to campus before that day will live in temporary housing near the apartments until the 26th. We have already been communicating directly with those students affected,” Thomas said.  

Clare Perez ’19 was one of the students impacted by this change. Perez, who lives in Chicago, was contacted on Monday, Aug. 14 that she would be living in Palmer until new PPR is available. She found the news exasperating.

“They should have known which students/rooms were being moved into earlier, and focused on finishing those first. I don’t live near Swarthmore at all and therefore will have all my things with me on the early move-in date.  Further, they put me on the third floor of a building with no elevator, so I have to move all my things up … only to move them back down and across to another dorm one week later,” Perez said.

Shivani Chinappan ’19, another early move-in student, was concerned by the timing of the date change notice.

“I think it’s mainly just really inconvenient to have to move in two separate times, especially for people traveling far who had to make arrangements to move their things. More time to prepare would have been nice, [five] days before people move in is extremely short notice.”

Thomas says most of the remaining work is focused on the exterior and the terrace.

The bulk of the work on the interior of the apartments is complete.  Some of the furniture that will be in all individual apartment common area living room spaces is scheduled to be placed in mid-September. All bedroom/dining furniture will be in place when students move in,” she said.  

Although the apartments are slated for move-in on August 26, renovations to the buildings will continue well into the fall semester.

The pathways and exterior lighting, interior and exterior cleaning of windows, and renovations to the baseball field will continue for a couple of weeks. There may be final adjustments in individual suites which will be scheduled in advance with residents. All work in the building should be completed around October 1,” Thomas said. The Arboretum staff will also be planting green spaces as well as the roof terraces throughout the fall. Palmer, the building in which the affected students will be temporarily living, has also recently undergone renovations along with Pittenger.

Both Thomas and Susan Smythe of Facilities are optimistic about the new living situations.

We think students will be very pleased with how the building has turned out and we appreciate students’ patience as we put the finishing touches in place,” they said.

Regardless of how long the construction takes, it will be a significant presence for students living in or near new PPR. The Phoenix will continue to follow the ongoing renovations to the apartments as well as other structures on campus in our first issue. 

BEP construction to begin over the summer

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When students return to campus in the fall things in the Northeast part of campus will look quite different. Construction on the Biology Engineering and Psychology Building will begin this summer with the demolition of Papazian Hall, which will start a game of musical chairs where departments will hoping buildings as construction is completed.

In preparation for the demolition of Papazian Hall this summer, the Psychology Department and some of the Engineering Department’s shops will move in May to the newly completed Whittier Hall, behind the Lang Center on Whittier Place,” said Jan Semler, Director of Capital Planning and Project Management.

Semler stressed that the BEP shows the college’s commitment to interdisciplinary programs and the college’s unique integration of engineering into the liberal arts curriculum.

“The three departments have outgrown their space in Martin Biological Laboratory, Hicks Hall, and Papazian Hall, respectively. Despite periodic capital investments in the existing buildings, all three departments need new space to meet their curricular needs and the research interests of the faculty,” said Semler.

The building will replace Hicks and Papazian Halls and will be finished in 2020, with part of the building, hosting the entirety of the engineering department and parts of the psychology and biology departments, opening in 2019.

“Hicks and papazian have a lot of historical significance so their destruction does sadden me. However, I’m more upset that the BEP building won’t be completed  until we are long gone. The addition of a large common space near the center of campus will help to alleviate the current overload on sci and kohlberg,” said Max Barry ’19 who is double majoring in engineering and art, “The construction will also allow for the, much needed, expansion of the CS department. There is definitely a need for a community makerspace open to all students and the addition of a new engineering building will foster that need.”

In addition to the new lab and classroom spaces the building will also add the John W. Nason Garden and terrace.

“[The terrace] will [provide] shaded seating for informal gatherings, outdoor study and relaxation. A grill area at the edge of the garden is expected to become a popular gathering spot for faculty, staff and students in BEP, Beardsley, Pearson, and Trotter Halls,” said Semler.

The destruction of Pappazian this summer and Hicks following may put classroom pressure on other near by buildings such as Beardsley which hosts the Art and Art History departments.

Despite the increased pressure the building may see on classroom space Barry believes that having more people in the building may benefit the departments.

“I think the exposure to student art that is frequently displayed in Beardsley will be a positive effect of any classes that are moved into the building while BEP is constructed,” said Barry.

After the BEP is completed the Art department will move to Whittier Hall and philosophy will move into Beardsley.

Overcrowding causes concern on campus

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The college has been gradually increasing the size of the student body population over the past five years. The increasing number of students presents the potential issue of overcrowded spaces on campus, especially in regards to dining and studying spaces. Students are concerned that the larger student body is straining the college’s spaces and services.

Dean of Students Elizabeth Braun said that the growth of the student body is part of the college’s strategic plan. In the last five years, the college has added 100 students to the student population, and it plans to add 100 more in the next five years.

“Over the last five years, the college has increased in size by 100 students,” said Braun. “This growth was outlined as part of the strategic plan that was completed in 2010-2011. That plan called for Swarthmore to increase by a total of 200 students over the course of 10 years.  We will be continuing to evaluate and assess timing, pacing, and implementation of continued student growth.”   

Sharples has difficulty running efficiently during peak meal hours, causing many students frustration. Due to the large number of classes that end simultaneously, a lunch rush generally occurs at around 12:30. Although peak meal hours have always been crowded at Sharples students have expressed concern that the dining hall is more crowded than ever this year.

“I was surprised because I’ve never seen so many people,” said Xena Wang ’19. “Last year, maybe because there were fewer people or because I went at more opportune times, I felt like there was always somewhere to sit. But now, I feel like, during peak hours, you can’t really find anywhere without being crowded,” said Wang.

Linda McDougall, head of dining services, discussed how Sharples has worked to increase capacity and meet student needs. McDougal said that the Sharples to-go option greatly reduced crowding, and incremental increases in staffing have helped to keep Sharples running smoothly. Furthermore, she stated that increased seating has been added within the dining hall, and Sharples has increased its capacity to provide for students.

“We added some new tables this past summer, which has increased our seating capacity,” said McDougal. “This is a two phase process, which will commence this coming summer and will transition all the tables and chairs. I believe, at that point, we will have reached our maximum capacity.  I truly have not heard any complaints, to date, about the lack of seating when students come for meals.”

Some students, such as Wang, will avoid going to Sharples at peak meal hours altogether in order to avoid fighting through the crowds. Because she gets out of class at 12:30pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays Wang avoids the peak meal time  overcrowding in Sharples, and she tries to go to the Ville or the Science Center instead.

“On Tuesday and Thursday, I don’t bother going to Sharples because I know it will be crowded, because that’s when everyone gets out ,” said Wang, describing the necessity of intentional planning of meals to compensate for overcrowded dining options.

McDougal described how the addition of Sharples to-go and the expansion of the meal plan to include Ville Points has decreased the crowding at peak meal times. Although many students have voiced complaints about Sharples overcrowding, McDougal claims that the diversity of dining options under the new meal plan leads to fewer students coming into Sharples and decreases the lunch rush.

“I do not feel as if we are any more crowded during peak hours as we have been in the past,” said McDougal. “I feel, with the addition of take out as well as additional points and the grab ’n go options, that the counts are about the same and sometimes a little less than in the past.”

Although these additions have been positively received by the student body, many students believe that they haven’t eliminated the problems associated with Sharples. Wang shared her appreciation for the increased diversity of dining options while pointing out that problems remain with Sharples and the campus dining experience.

“I think people don’t realize they can explore other options with this new meal plan. Now, it’s a lot easier to go to other places because, if I see that Sharples is really crowded, I can go somewhere else,” said Wang. “Last year, Sharples was the only option, so I’m not really disappointed … but I think Sharples is over its capacity.”

As part of its strategic plan, the college is working to renovate and expand many buildings and services on campus. Provost Thomas Stephenson identified the need to increase academic spaces on campus as one of the key concerns of the college, especially in light of the increasing population. The college is currently planning out the construction of a new Biology, Engineering, and Psychology  building. This construction will create new academic spaces  for these departments as well as free up spaces, such as Martin Hall, to be renovated and used by other departments.

“This new facility will provide new labs for these three departments as well as space for the expansion of each,” said Stephenson.  “There will also be a common space that will enhance opportunities for interdisciplinary connections between the departments, and that will serve as a new gathering area for the Trotter – Pearson – BEP – Kohlberg quad that will be formed around the Nason garden.”

Several renovations are underway to cope with the growing student body. The Human Resources Department will be moving out of Pearson Hall, so it can be converted into a full academic building. Over the summer, the former bookstore space of Clothier was converted into a computer science lab, and spaces in Beardsley and Old Tarble were renovated as studio art space. Furthermore, Cornell first was redone in order  to increase the quality and capacity of student study space. These changes are part of a push to expand and improve campus space.

“We are also currently building the new residence hall, which will add 120 beds and open in the Fall of 2017; the Whittier Place building and the Biology, Engineering, Psychology building,” said Braun. “The Sproul expansion of the Intercultural Center will help accommodate the growth of students engaged in the Intercultural Center, the Interfaith Center, and International students.”

Despite the renovations and construction projects planned by administration, students remain concerned about the current overcrowding of spaces on campus. Beyond Sharples, the Science Center is seen as overcrowded by many students. These concerns are especially strong in respect to the coffee bar. Because of the tight turnaround time between classes, a long line at the coffee bar can be problematic. Daniel Lai ’17 discussed how the increasingly long line causing difficulties with getting to class on time.

“During my four years at Swarthmore, I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Science Center coffee bar line this long between classes,” said Lai. “It’s hard to wait on line to get things without being late to your next class.”

In addition to complaints about the coffee bar line, students have also expressed frustration with how crowded certain academic buildings and study spaces get on campus. Science Center is a popular spot for students to study throughout the day, but the number of people going there often makes it difficult to find study spots. Even with the recent renovations, Cornell has become very crowded, making it difficult for students to study there.

“It’s very hard to find a spot in Science Center to study during the day,” said Lai. “While I do love the recent renovations to Cornell first and the additional study space that has been created, I don’t feel as though it is enough to address the overcrowding of good study spaces during peak hours.”

Although the college is working to expand campus spaces, the steady growth of the student body and the overcrowding of current spaces continues to be a concern for students.


New PPR Construction Continues; Student Feedback Requested

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In response to students’ inquiries about the construction of the New PPR (NPPR) dorm currently underway, Susan Smythe from Facilities Management held an information and Q&A session in Palmer Lounge Sunday night on how the project is developing. The few dozen attendees enjoyed snacks and could view the anticipated layout of NPPR on two posters behind Smythe. She described the vision the college had for the new living spaces and discussed with students their experiences and concerns of presently living next to the construction.

The entire building is expected to be completed in time for the 2016-2017 academic year.

“This time next year, people will be in it,” Smythe said.

Smythe first described the design of NPPR. The housing, located behind Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts (PPR) dorms, will consist of three connected and cube-shaped buildings, labeled A, B, and C. Building B, linked to the other two, will have an elevator as well as a basement. Current construction is mainly preparing for this basement, which Smythe described is some of the most arduous work to be done. The space between the old and new buildings will become an open quad. The new spaces will hold common areas on the ground floor with large study lounges. Many rooms will have air conditioning, but it is not guaranteed throughout the whole dorm. The buildings will have windows with furnished terraces facing the baseball field. A student garden will be maintained adjacent to the buildings, and indoor bike storage will be available. NPPR will also be accessible with Onecard.

As for living arrangements, NPPR will hold 120 rooms arranged of suites. Building A suites will be confined to about five to six students, and building B will have about ten people on each of two floors. The bedrooms will have a desk and wardrobe and, as singles, may be smaller than other rooms on campus, in turn for more community space. Suite spaces will have a sofa, tables, chairs, and room for students to bring their own furniture if they wish. Like PPR, these dorms will be reserved mostly for upperclassmen.

NPPR is being developed with the college’s sustainability framework in mind. Water will be heated through solar energy. Some of the building is expected to run on solar electricity. Ground source heat pumps will be geothermal. Rainwater will also be collected for toilet water and flushing.

Smythe told students that the project is currently on schedule, but that delays are possible.

“We’re hoping we’ll be done [with construction] mid-July next year, so we’ll have time to move furniture in,” she said. “The schedule is a little tight, but is very closely monitored.”

Along with being informative, she stressed the importance of being transparent about the process and encouraged students to communicate comments and concerns.

After her presentation, Smythe opened the floor to questions. Conversation about the anticipation for the new future living options and also about living next to the ongoing construction ensued between students and the facilitator.

Smythe informed students that construction should start at 8 a.m. every work morning.

“If you see that or hear that not being the case, please let me know that,” she stressed, and apologized in advance for any rare occurrences of noise pollution. Smythe suggested students email her directly as soon as whatever construction-related disturbance happens. She noted that she communicates with the workers frequently throughout the day and he explained the value of having an open dialogue between students, workers and faculty leading the project.

“You’re also kind of eyes and ears for this project … and you can be a good source of information for us.”

Smythe also asked how she could update those living in PPR on relevant information. The group discussed possibilities for a website, bulletin board, or occasional emails to inform students of necessary details on the construction process.

Abigail Wild ’18, an RA in Pittenger, was please by the content of the presentation.

“I felt better informed after the presentation and excited about the sustainability initiatives, and the more developed off-campus community,” she said. “I think other than being concerned about construction, people are pretty excited.”

Sierra Bienz ’19, who lives in Palmer, appreciated the information she learned about the NPPR plan at the session.

“I didn’t have any idea what the building footprint or plan was going to be, so it was really interesting to see the architecture sketches.”

Bienz found the living arrangement for NPPR appealing.

“She’s really tempted me, the idea of single suites with a common area and air conditioning- it seems like it would be a very nice place to live.”

She also felt that living close to the construction was not an inconvenience, and that the leaders of the project valued students’ interests and concerns.

“I like being able to see the progress out my window,” she said. “It helps that [Smythe] is so willing to voice any concerns to the company doing the work.”

A final note Smythe mentioned was the importance of enhancing a sense of community for students living off-campus. She hopes the NPPR will offer more amenities and establish a stronger community for students living in these dorms.

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