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.
While the size of Swarthmore’s student body has been steadily growing for decades, its dining hall has not. Five years after the campus master plan recommended extensive additions to increase the size of Sharples, the college still has no definite plans for adding space to the building. However, Sharples is making small adjustments to meet the needs of the growing student body.
Because Sharples was built in 1963, “seating was designed when we had close to 1,000 students on campus. With a current population close to 1,500, we needed to reevaluate our seating matrix,” said Anthony Coschignano, Executive Director of Auxiliary Services.
However, Stuart Hain, Vice President for Facilities and Capital Projects, said that there are no finalized plans to expand the building yet.
“It’s not a simple building to add on to, because of the way the roofs work and the way it is formed […] We have looked at possibilities for how to add space inside, around the top, spaces on the outside, but there are no finalized or even agreed-to plans yet,” he said.
In the meantime, he said, the college will prioritize adjustments to factors such as class schedules, the hours Sharples is open, and options in meal plan before making renovations to the building itself.
One planned adjustment is to replace the worn-out tables and chairs with newer, lighter ones. With the new design, there will be greater flexibility and mobility for the reconfiguration of the tables. Each room within Sharples will be completed in the span of three years, Coschignano said.
According to Linda McDougall, Director of Dining Services, another reason the tables are being replaced is the stickiness of the surfaces. “I get concerned that people think it’s because it’s dirty; that’s not what it is. It’s a combination of many years of cleaning products,” she said.
Concerning the “to go” meals pilot program, McDougall said that she has received nothing but positive feedback from the students. However, she was uncertain whether it has alleviated the overcrowding at Sharples. “It’s really hard for me to tell […] I think it’s more of a convenience for people. It’s another option besides grab-n-go sandwiches.”
According to Hain, the visioning study by the committee for the south campus — including Sharples, McCabe, and Clothier — is expected to occur next fall. If everything goes as planned, “before 2018, we’ll have a good idea of what we want to do,” he said.
“I recognize that students are struggling now because they are crowded, and we know that, and we care about that a lot. We want to relieve that pressure,” Hain said. “In any case, we are going to have to think about some ways to relieve that pressure before we build anything there.”