Suggesting new facilities for Georgetown’s 2010 Campus Plan is like playing the world’s most infuriating game of Tetris. Anyone walking around campus can see that the University has tried to fit a lot into a small space. Adding to the challenge are our vociferous neighbors, who would love if the University would stick to building behind its largely ceremonial front gate.
Unfortunately, students still lack space on campus for important aspects of student life. Luckily, the 2010 Campus Plan offers an opportunity to make some major changes—if students speak up about their needs.
One group, the Student Space Working Group, has already started advocating for some improvements. SSWG released a report yesterday which found that students have difficulty locating places to study, trouble reserving spaces for group meetings, and little on-campus space to socialize that is not already reserved for another function.
Most tellingly, when the SSWG asked students what they considered to be the “center of student life on campus,” the most common response was Lauinger Library. Lau is an inefficient “beacon of our commitment to learning” when people use it for too many different activities. Lau 2 is a place people go to study quietly, work in groups or gossip about last weekend, but none of these activities mix particularly well with the others. We need more spaces set aside for each of these purposes.
Some parts of the 2010 Campus Plan only aggravate this problem. Sellinger Lounge—another place already used for studying, socializing, performances, eating, and a mishmash of other scheduled events—will soon become a walkway into the new science building, making it an even more inadequate space than it already is.
Student space is not a new issue. In 1999, a group of juniors and seniors compiled a Report on Student Life, which detailed problems about a lack of space for extracurricular groups. While the group recommended the construction of a student union and reorganization of the Leavey Center, few of their recommendations were actually realized.
The current 2010 Campus Plan has several measures aimed at using remaining space to improve the undergraduate experience, such as adding expansions onto Leavey and Lauinger. One plan, which SSWG member Fitz Lufkin (COL ’11) considers most important, is to renovate 30,000 square feet of space under New South to create a student center that could house clubs and include a lounge.
It seems likely the University will prioritize projects like the New South student center in the next decade. Vice President of Student Affairs Todd Olson said that plans to develop student space in New South will definitely be included in the 2010 Campus Plan. But he said that while the student center is an important project, other parts of the plan, such as the new science building, will have priority.
SSWG member Max Glassie (COL ’10) said the recommendations from the 1999 Report on Student Life were neglected because other projects took precedence, but also because the Report on Student Life recommendations did not gain widespread student support. He said the next step is to institutionalize the SSWG so that it includes faculty and administrators, in the model of the Diversity Initiative working groups. Glassie said that while the administration has been keeping the SSWG informed about the 2010 Campus Plan, the report should mostly be used as a reference for other groups who want to advocate for a variety of improvements to student space—from big projects like the New South Student Center to smaller projects like better lighting—so that student space issues are “continually addressed.”
The neighbors have been mobilizing for a long time to advocate for their interests. It’s time that students too start mobilizing and advocate for more student space on campus, so they can reserve a few Tetris blocks for those things they need most.
Tell Kara about your block fitting problems at firstname.lastname@example.org
Saxa Politica is a bi-weekly column on campus news and politics.