Campus groups voice concerns about New South student space

September 20, 2012

As plans move ahead for the New South Student Center, plans for addressing concerns about student groups’ storage and practice space are just being formed.

Currently, New South is used by a wide array of student dance, sport, and service groups, including Groove Theory, the Aikido Club, and Relay For Life, among others.

The plans unveiled at a public town hall on Sept. 6 emphasized the NSSC as a “living room” on campus, a place to gather and study. Construction is projected to begin next fall, with the NSSC slated to open in the fall of 2014.

“The transition planning for the New South Student Center will get started in earnest sometime later this semester, and continue throughout the spring,” wrote Director of the Center for Student Programs Erika Cohen-Derr in an email.

“Currently there is not a plan, but there have been informal conversations,” said GUSA President Clara Gustafson (SFS ‘13). “I think there should be two meetings before the end of the semester, with the whole group of students who have a stake in that space and the administrators who are going to be able to do something about it.”

“The Transition Planning Committee will include students representing the organizations and advisory boards most affected by the loss of the space during the construction year and beyond,” Cohen-Derr wrote. “The plan will need to include space for the functions that are currently supported by New South: office space, storage space, and practice/rehearsal space”—precisely the concerns student groups have.

When told there is currently no plan for relocating students, Alex Bayani (SFS ‘14), President of the Georgetown Fencing Club, said he “find[s] it disconcerting such groups don’t have a future home or at least there is no plan for that at this time.”

“We have about 20 to 25 people who attend practice regularly, and as it now stands our space is limited and crowded,” Bayani said. “I am deeply concerned about the future of the club, its growth, and its prospects, as we are now in a competitive regional conference.”

Some groups, such as Relay For Life, utilize New South primarily for storage. “We have years of ‘relay swag’ accumulated in the closet, and all the tents we use at the event,” said Dan Silkman (COL’ 15), a Relay event co-chair. “If they give us the same amount of space in Leavey that we have in Riverside, I don’t think it would be that much of an issue.”

Although Silkman is confident student groups will be given space, he admits he is “just assuming they are going to give us space.” He hopes whatever ends up being requested of student groups will be reasonable. “If we have an extended period of time to get everything together and formulate a plan to move everything and reorganize, I think that would be the most fair thing,” he said.

New South houses two dance studios, which will be included in the NSSC, but while under construction Georgetown’s dance groups will have to find temporary homes.

“[The Georgetown University Dance Company] is very excited to have new studios, because we’re hoping they are going to much more innovative than the ones we have now,” said Catharine Maitner (COL’ 15), secretary of the GUDC. The group uses marley floors, a type of vinyl floor used by different styles of dances, and only New South has those floors.

“I know we used to practice in Yates,” she said, “but going to the New South studios was a huge step up for us.”

Groove Theory is another dance performance company which regularly uses the dance studios. “The most important thing you can’t automatically get is mirrors,” said Camille Squires (SFS ‘15), a member of Groove Theory. “There are open spaces to find on campus, but mirrors are crucial when you are trying to practice a dance and make sure it looks good, and it’s uniform.”

“I appreciate the whole New South Student Center, that it’s for students and a lot of it is for future Georgetown students,” Squires said. “But I think it’s important, too, to consider the students that are there.”

A smaller, and probably less well-known, group that utilizes New South is the Aikido Club. The club, which currently has six members, has been in existence for 15 years, and has included both graduates and undergraduates.

“We have mats that are a special kind of canvas, which collectively weigh 400-500 pounds,” said Lance Strahl (MSB ‘13), the club’s president. The only place Strahl could see the club moving to is Bulldog Alley, but storing the mats is an obvious challenge.

“We have accumulated so much, and so much of it is required. It’s a safety issue.” Strahl said.

Overall, Strahl was dissatisfied with the plans for the NSSC. He worries the space will be dedicated to one purpose, when it should be about “cura personalis, caring for the whole person, and providing activity and a space for people to do diverse things they enjoy,” Strahl said.

“It’s really not taking care of the whole person. It’s really not taking care of anything.”

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