New Spaces for Classes and Community

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

Swarthmore’s Strategic Directions proposes to build new spaces on campus within the next ten to fifteen years to keep pace with the College’s academic needs and promote its residential and community life on campus.

The College plans to replace Hicks, Martin, and Papazian, which were built in 1919, 1938, and 1929, respectively making them the oldest academic buildings on campus. The new spaces will fill needs of their departments, and the 21st century curriculum the College hopes to implement.

Hicks does not have the space for group-work, senior-level design projects, or engaging students with faculty research, and the new building should serve “an interdisciplinary, problem-based, collaborative, innovative, and community-based program that marks the future of the liberal arts.”

The Biology department needs more space for larger enrollments, and classrooms and laboratories that are “upgraded to keep pace with changes in technology, instrumentation, and pedagogy.”

The Psychology department can no longer accommodate growing enrollments, “a growing emphasis on experimental psychology, active student/faculty research programs, and a major that requires an independent project of all its students.”

The college intends to “re-envision” the library, built in 1967 for a variety of study styles, both quiet and collaborative. It also proposes a new “media commons” on campus for faculty and staff to “work collaboratively within academic programs like film and media studies or on extracurricular initiatives.”

Swarthmore also plans to expand the facilities for its community, which it identifies as a key feature of the residential experience.

The strategic plan grapples with the challenge of creating student spaces given the imitations of Tarble-in-Clothier and Sharples.

Originally, President Chopp explained, “[Dean Braun] and Working Group 1 had the idea of building a brand new dining hall and using Sharples as a social space, but my guess is that is that we won’t do that because of financial consideration.”

Instead the strategic plan suggests that Sharples could be renovated or expanded, it proposes that the college “imaginatively repurpose existing campus spaces” to support student extracurricular collaboration and informal gatherings of large and small groups. President Chopp said she would prefer that the College be “spend limited funds on the expansion of academic facilities, projecting that higher education as a whole will be “more modest about the buildings that we build” due to financial restraints.

However, the College intends to “expand or build” the overcrowded fitness center to accommodate student, faculty, and staff needs, which President Chopp referred to as a “smaller” project in comparison to others, but a need that many identified as important.

The College will start a campus master plan under the guidance of Stu Hain, the Vice President for Facilities and Services, and bring in an outside firm to assess spaces on campus for building and renovation. 


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