SGO and Deans Host Open Forum on Visioning Process

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.

On Sunday evening, the Student Government Organization (SGO) hosted an open forum in Science Center 104 on the ‘Visioning Process.’ Members of the college administration gave presentations on the “future of student experience at Swarthmore,” while several students gave feedback and voiced their opinions on current experiences.

Presenters at the forum included Dean of Students Liz Braun, Vice President for Finance and Administration Gregory Brown, Assistant Director of Student Life Andrew Barclay, and Facilities Interior Designer Mary Carlino.

Braun started off by emphasizing that they plan to mainly gather student feedback on the administration-led ‘Visioning Process’.

According to the college’s website, the Visioning Process is “an effort [that] began this summer to help [the college] think more holistically about both the nature of students’ lives beyond the classroom and the types of spaces, services, technologies, activities and campus culture that might support those experiences, both now and into the future.”

In particular, Braun wanted feedback on possible furniture for future college spaces.

“The big thing we want tonight, is feedback from you, in particular around furniture, which I know some people feel very passionately about.”

Brown presented next, and updated the room on the process thus far, which came to a conclusion this winter. Sixteen recommendations came out of the ‘Visioning’ effort, some of which concerned crowding in dining facilities and the diversity of dining choices. Brown said that while the college is working to respond to these recommendations, there are several challenges.

“You like to study and socialize often in the same spaces. […] What does that look like? How do we make a student gathering space that would accommodate that kind of behavior?” Brown said.

Braun emphasized that the administration is thinking about small-scale renovations, which they have dubbed ‘Space Matters’ projects, as well as “larger scale capital projects” and “infrastructure issues.” ‘Space Matters’ projects include the recently-renovated Essie Mae’s and Mephistos Lounge. Larger scale capital projects include the Sproul common space, which is scheduled to be open for the Fall 2018 semester.

Carlino then gave a brief presentation on potential furniture for upcoming ‘Space Matters’ projects as well as the Sproul common space, and elicited feedback from the student audience. She emphasized she mainly looked for additions which could “add flexibility and transform.”

Examples of this include flip-top mobile tables with stackable seating, drop leaf tables, telescoping white boards. These pieces would “[create] spaces within larger spaces,” and make larger rooms more multifunctional.

Several students voiced their opinions after the presentation. Chair of Academic Affairs Corinne Candilis ‘17 said that the college needs more standing study spaces. Another student added that “napping pods” would be a useful and suitable addition. SGO Co-President Ben Roebuck ‘17 suggested that many of the humanities and social science departments’ students don’t have places to get together.

The participating faculty members responded to these concerns sympathetically and acknowledged that, moving forward, more conversations about student spaces will be necessary.

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