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.
The College recently called for student input in creating the Campus Master Plan, a yearlong process for renovating existing spaces, redesigning campus infrastructure and constructing new buildings. Students discussed these plans with consultants from Ayers Saint Gross (ASG), the architecture firm hired by the College to design the plan.
“We are in the beginning stages,” said Kevin Petersen, an architect with ASG. “We’re trying to reach out to students for their perception of campus, to figure out place they like, or places where there’s an opportunity to develop.”
Last Tuesday 25 students gathered in Kohlberg Coffee Bar to share what they wanted to see developed. They voiced the need for centrally located social spaces and renovations to the recreational facilities. Also raised was the issue of spaces that currently have multiple conflicting uses, such as Paces.
ASG Architect Adam Gross said that the Master Planning Committee’s top three priorities include renovating space in both the engineering building and McCabe Library, and working with the recreational facilities. Petersen and Rebekah Gayley, another ASG architect, emphasized the fact that these priorities are still tentative, and that they’re only just beginning the information-gathering process.
The Campus Master Plan team and Paula Dale, Campus Master Plan project manager and executive assistant for Facilities and Services, also set up at the bottom of Sharples during lunch hours last Wednesday.
On a large map of campus, students placed colored stickers to indicate “weak,” “positive,” and “opportunity” areas. Perceived “weak spots” included the Mullen Recreational Center, McCabe, and the Palmer, Pittenger, and Roberts dorms. All other residence halls received “positive” markers. “Opportunity” spaces included Tarble, Old Tarble, Hicks, Sharples, and Beardsley.
In contrast to the first meeting, a handful of students voiced opposition a student union. They say the academic buildings serve as a common area and provide diverse alternatives to a single space.
In addition to the stickers, the ASG consultants and Dale gathered lengthier student responses on index cards. Among the suggestions were requests for more windows and natural lighting in McCabe. Student Council Co-President Gabby Capone ’14 said that re-working the recreational facilities could help bridge the perceived divide between athletes and non-athletes. Others saw the Mullen Tennis courts as a place to integrate social life with physical health.
Dale described her role as “facilitator,” helping the planners gather perspectives and ideas from all over the campus, including students, the Dean’s office, academic departments, and administrative offices. Dale said she is still testing out the best ways to communicate to students how to get involved in the process.
The Master Planning website is set to go live on May 4 to provide transparency and help maintain an active campus-wide dialogue. The full Master Plan, consisting of a narrative report accompanied by maps, plans, and diagrams will be completed around March 2013.
Dialogue with students and faculty during the process will continue this semester and later next fall. On Friday, April 27, there will be a Campus Master Plan table on Parrish Beach from noon until 2 p.m. where students can voice their additional comments.