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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.

Why the president should take Introduction to Economics

in Columns/Opinions/Uncategorized by

One of President Trump’s favorite activities is bragging about how great his administration has been for the economy. While the economy is currently on an overall upswing, Trump has no business taking credit for all of the gains he and his administration claim were due solely to their takeover of the executive branch.  In addition, these gains aren’t nearly as great as he makes them out to be, and anyone who has taken Introduction to Economics would quickly realize these claims are not entirely grounded in fact.

In September, Trump tweeted that “virtually no President has accomplished what we have accomplished in the first 9 months,” describing the economy—his economy—to be “roaring.”  

Claiming that the, at the time, nine month duration of his presidency saw the highest stock market growth in history, Trump hit a wall. Market Watch claims the best nine-month period for stock market growth was actually between April and December 2009, when the S&P soared 46.7 percent.  

Additionally, according to MarketWatch, “the market was better than it is now about 46 percent of the time while Bill Clinton was president, 34 percent under Barack Obama, and 14 percent under George W. Bush.”

Over the summer, Trump announced that “we have our most jobs ever in our country” and that “we have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country.” Both of these claims are meaningless due to the fact that population has more than doubled in size since 1950.

Instead of expounding statistics that can be explained away by population growth, economists would rather consider the ratio of employment to population.

As the population continues to increase, the labor force does as well. However, the labor force is actually growing more slowly than it in the recent past due to the lack of baby boomers in the workforce. According to the Washington Post, “In 2016 the labor force participation rate for Americans ages 25 to 54 hovered around 81 percent, but it peaked in 1997 at 84 percent. Economists frequently analyze this rate as an indicator of the health of the job market. The higher the number, the healthier the market.”

There are many nuances the Trump administration chooses to ignore when referencing statistics related to employment. For example, one could choose to analyze the labor force participation rate for people ages 25 to 54, which measures the number of people who are both employed and unemployed against the entire U.S. population. There is also an overall labor force participation rate. This includes all Americans ages 16 and up while also incorporating both people who might be unemployed while in school and people aging out of the labor force.

Recently, Vice President Pence has been taking his cues from Trump, regurgitating his boss’ statements, and claiming the transfer of power to their leadership to be the cause of some unprecedented economic upswing.

During a speech at the Tax Foundation on Nov. 16, Pence, as evidence for his braggart statements about the Trump administration’s supposed great economic success, claimed that “there are more Americans working today than ever before in American history.”  

The American economy has been recovering from the Great Recession since 2009, yet Trump and Pence enjoy publicizing the idea that their administration has single handedly turned it all around.  Additionally, instead of acknowledging the Federal Reserve’s role in getting the economy out of the recession, spurring the highest period of economic growth in history, Trump chooses to criticize the organization and its leader. During the campaign, Trump claimed that “the Fed [created] a ‘very false economy,’” whatever that means. However, now that this “false economy” is having some success, he is now claiming it to be his own, taking credit for the effects of Fed policies and those of the Obama administration which he relentlessly mocked and attempted to refute.

There are two possible scenarios at play here. The first is that Trump, despite his continuous boasts about being an expert in the field of business, needs to brush up on his Economics 001 and should enroll in an introductory course at a local university; DC has plenty of options. The second, and admittedly more likely, option considering our President’s impeccable and proven track record as a liar, is that he comprehends the basic economic concepts that his statements clearly violate, and is operating under the impression that the American public does not, that he believes only a very small percentage of the words coming out of his mouth, and refuses to admit otherwise.

College investments raise concerns of financial prudence

in Opinions/Staff Editorials by

We at the Phoenix started off the year by praising the college for its various and diverse developmental projects, noting that there was a clear effort to work towards improving various aspects of students’ experience here at Swarthmore. While this continues to hold true, all beneficial investments require significant financial capital, a resource which is finite and inevitably fluctuates from year to year in regards to inflows. As such, alongside any developments comes the concern of a judicious distribution of funds.

Investing in several projects at this time may prevent future classes from enjoying benefits of potential projects that could be more appropriate for them at a future time. More importantly, as we watch the construction of the Inn, the development of a party space near Olde Club, the creation of suite style dorms known as “New PPR,” and the demolition of Hicks and Papazian and the construction of the BEP, we wonder why such projects were not undertaken in order to benefit the classes that have passed before us. For several years, it seems that no funding was being used to develop and improve campus infrastructure. What has been the impetus for several simultaneous projects now, and what are the fiscal implications of investing such a tremendous sum of money all at once?

We at the Phoenix are concerned with the potential for generational inequity, where some classes are deprived of any or all of these benefits. It is the college’s responsibility to ensure a high quality experience for all students; this requires a balanced spread of funds from year to year to address the most pressing and relevant issues that pertain to each group of students that passes through Swarthmore. Selecting a span of a few years to engage in several initiatives, a period of time which is then followed by years of inactivity and little development, seems erratic and imprudent. All classes, irrespective of the timing of their entrance and exit, deserve the same level of care and attention from the college, and this requires greater consistency in the college’s willingness to invest into the wellbeing of students with each passing fiscal year.

 

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