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 Ad Hoc Committee on Wellbeing, Belonging, and Social Life announced that the College would be redesigning Shane Lounge over spring break as a part of their recommendations on reimagining spaces on campus. Dean of Students Liz Braun said that the newly renovated space would be similar in structure to a co-working space.
“It [will have] some really interesting furniture, including these chairs that are soundproof. So you can sit in the chair, but if you wanted you could take a nap or have your own cocoon almost,” she said.
Braun noted that the way the changes affect students’ utilization of Shane Lounge will impact the Committee’s recommendations moving forward, including a proposal for a potential pop-up patio outside the Women’s Resource Center.
“We want to examine, once that change is done, how students are using the space, how it’s populated, why they’re there, and use that to inform future renovations,” she said.
However, outside of the redesign of Shane Lounge, the committee was short on concrete ideas at the press briefing. When asked about other specific ideas and proposals the Committee has, Braun noted the Committee is still moving from the understanding stage to the prototyping stage.
“We are moving to the prototyping and testing stage. We’ve talked about a bunch of different types of ideas. Some are building on existing things that we see working on campus, and some of them are trying out new things, things in a totally different direction,” she said. “I think it by necessity it feels a little nebulous because we’re still trying to figure out what we want.”
“It [will have] some really interesting furniture, including these chairs that are soundproof. So you can sit in the chair, but if you wanted you could take a nap or have your own cocoon almost”
Francisco Veron Ferreira ‘19 noted the Committee is looking into programming in places like McCabe and Shane Lounge.
“There was some talk about putting instruments in the lounges. We want to encourage people to utilize these spaces outside of academics,” he said.
The Committee’s charge includes a wide array of issues on campus outside of utilization of space, including work-life balance among the student body and facilitating discussions between students and faculty. One idea the Committee has regarding student well-being is to rethink Swarthmore’s ideal t-shirt slogan.
“The student on our group recommended memes, like a new set of Swarthmore memes related to living your best life and taking care of yourself at Swarthmore…I’m hoping we can come up with something as catchy as and could replace things like, ‘everywhere else it would have been an A’,” Braun said.
However, the Committee, nominally about wellness, seemed less focused on issues regarding Worth Health Center and Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). When asked about the fact that students without health insurance through the College don’t have access to medical items like inhalers, she deferred to Director of Health and Wellness Services Alice Holland, who was not in attendance at the press briefing.
“It can be complicated, depending on the service, what they can do in-house, what they can’t. My understanding is that they try to work with students who have accommodations,” she said. “I don’t want to speak out of turn, it’s not my area of expertise.”
She also pointed out that while Worth Health Center charges students who don’t have insurance through the College $25 for flu shots, they do offer free travel health consultations.
“At many schools, you’d have to go to an outside health provider to do a travel health [consultation] before you go on a study abroad program or do a summer internship,” she said.
“The student on our group recommended memes, like a new set of Swarthmore memes related to living your best life and taking care of yourself at Swarthmore”
Braun also deferred to other committees and student groups when asked about current proposals floating around campus. When asked about SGO’s push to expand Matchbox hours, she said the initiative was largely being taken up by SGO, but the Committee is looking to be involved in the process.
“Extending hours has budget implications…is there a way to test it out to see what the audience is? Before we make a full institutional commitment to changing the hours, could we commit to trying it out for a month to look at how students are utilizing those extra hours?” she said.
Spaces for social life and parties also fall under the purview of the Committee, and Professor Bruce Dorsey noted that the committee is looking at issues of fairness and equity in social spaces.
“We want to find out additional information from students about what makes up the ‘ideal’ party,” he said.
When asked about the difficulties in obtaining alcohol permits for parties, Jeremy Seitz-Brown ‘18 said the Committee is mostly looking at expanding dry social options on campus.
“I think that’s something that’s super crucial to have student input in, like more spaces for board games or other alternatives,” he said.
“We want spaces for people who aren’t necessarily into frat parties, spaces where you don’t have to drink in order to fit in,” Ferreira said.
For now, students can expect changes coming to Shane Lounge, and Dorsey said the Committee would be working on effectively communicating other ideas they come up with.
“One thing is how we can think about digital signage around campus,” he said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re developing ways of thinking about enhancing the conversations about a healthy academic and social life if you don’t communicate those things to each other.”
Featured image courtesy http://www.planodr.com.
It really seems to me that this committee is focused more on making Swat look better to prospective students than it is taking care of the health of current students. Not surprising, but it bears mentioning.
Memes for the future?: “Be more than a brain on sticks!” “Embrace your inner child” “Be a Whole Person”
“Get off the Grid” “I’m here to BE ME” all occur to me through the filter of my undergraduate days and the mesh of times long gone. Love, Maurice
This is a great article. So glad to see Swarthmore is investing in digital signage and soundproof chairs.
As a member of this committee, I find that the title of this article, as well as its contents (primarily by way of omission) are misleading. In addition to my position as a committee member, I work as a Wellness Assistant with staff at Worth as well as other wellness positions on campus. As a committee, we handle things on the administrative side and, though we can bring attention to student concerns, things like medical insurance policies are not necessarily within our control. In addition, was there any inquiry about initiatives already being carried out by CAPS and Worth? CAPS has recently hired new staff and expanded hours in response to student demand. Nurses stood in locations across campus to hand out free over the counter medication, thermometers, etc. during flu season. As for the “Buys Soundproof Chairs,” a major student complaint has been the fact that students feel like they are living in the libraries, which can be a stifling atmosphere. The Shane Lounge renovation is an attempt to expand learning spaces on campus and provide students with a way to unwind if they need to.
It should also be noted that a school-wide announcement was made to have people reach out to committee members during early stages of our planning process for one-on-one interviews, where they could candidly give feedback about how they felt about various components of campus life. Our initiatives have revolved around the feedback provided.
All in all, I’m pretty disappointed in this article and its sarcastic emphasis on so-considered lack of impactful priorities and superficial initiatives. If anyone wants to discuss the contents of this article or other actions being undertaken by the committee, please feel free to reach out.
I agree – this seems like a lot of cheap shots/sound bites – not that there aren’t things to fix – but this article really doesn’t represent the work that’s trying to be done to improve things – the Gazette should try and do better.
Being a couple of years removed from Swarthmore, I doubt I have the full perspective that would be offered by a lengthier time away from its culture. That being said, I feel pretty assured that a big aspect of my unhappiness on Swat’s campus was not due to infrequent visits to CAPS and Worth, but a result of the feeling around campus that it was 100% necessary that I run myself into the ground in order to keep up.
Dean Braun has been and always will be bad at articulating in ways that are compelling to Swatties (she’s trying to be like this hip cool mom or something), but I’m more than happy that the school is making effort towards creating spaces that help us foster a healthier culture on campus.
Like, imagine a swat world where frequent visits to CAPS isn’t necessary!!