University still developing a plan for New South groups

February 28, 2013

Plans for the Healey Family Student Center in New South Hall have been in the works since 2011, but plans for moving student groups out of the building are still not complete with only two and a half months left in the semester. Some groups will be able to move back into the Healey Family Student Center once it is complete, but for many, the search for a long term home will be just beginning.

Currently, a wide variety of dance groups, club sports teams, and service groups utilize space in New South. Finding new spaces on campus for these groups is a widely recognized problem. According to Erika Cohen-Derr, the Director of the Center for Student Programs, the administration is working with virtually every department on campus to find solutions. The faculty advisors for the groups which will be affected have been talking with the leaders of these groups over the last several months in an effort to document current use patterns and prioritize groups’ needs for replacement space.

“For example, clubs like Tae Kwon Do, Aikiki, and the Fencing Club have equipment that they need in order to practice,” Cohen-Derr wrote in an email to the Voice. “The goal for those groups is to find a space that will include both appropriate practice space and storage space so that equipment can be kept in close proximity.”

The administration’s plan for moving groups out is on schedule, but that timeline only called for developing a plan by the middle of the spring semester. “[We will] begin to implement that plan toward the end of the semester and into the first weeks of the summer,” Cohen-Derr wrote. “After Spring Break I hope to have specific information to share with the impacted groups about their options for next year.”

Some student groups are worried they still have no idea what these plans will be or if they will adequately meet all of their needs.

“We’ve been meeting with University officials since last February about what we can possibly do to find a solution or find a replacement space,” said George Hartmann (SFS ‘14), president of the service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. “Up until recently the University has been hearing us out in the expected Georgetown bureaucratic way and has not found any solid solutions.”

APO has the unique need of an office space, and Hartmann is concerned the University will look to solve other problems first, before addressing APO’s. “As of December, our last meeting with University officials, we were pretty much just told we would need to adjust to the idea of not having an office, at least temporarily,” Hartmann said. But even if a temporary office is found, APO will not be able to move back into the HFSC, something Hartmann says the University has made clear. “It seems like they have these discussions, but its more of a notification than a discussion,” he said.

Some groups have greater flexibility than others. One such group is the club triathlon team, which stores 10 bike trainers in New South, and uses the space for bike workouts. “The space we have is crucial in Riverside because you can’t really lug bike trainers around campus,” said Heather Sweet (SFS ‘14), the captain of the women’s club triathlon team.

Although storage will be an issue, the triathlon team is in a better position than other groups. “We’re flexible because we do triathlons and it’s a flexible sport,” Sweet said. “And we do know that club sports is accounting for us and planning on having space for us in the future and they’ve been pretty clear about communicating that.” The main solution to the group’s need for storage has been closets in Leavey. “I don’t know if they are able to commit at this point to saying anything, so they’re probably not going to tell us anything that’s less vague than that until they know for sure,” Sweet said.

For dance groups the construction will only be a temporary issue, but the University has yet to provide suitable proposals to the groups. Even for a short term fix, there are few adequate spaces on campus. The groups need mirrors on the wall, special floors, and railings for the ballet company. “The only space that I’ve really heard talked about is the black box theatre in Walsh, which is just really not going to work for us on so many different levels,” said Danielle Fornabaio (SFS ‘14), president of Groove Theory. Ideally the group would move to the dance and exercise room in Yates Fieldhouse, but it is hard to get a workable time slot.

“I feel like, as far as I’ve been informed, we don’t have a place to rehearse yet, which is concerning for me,” Fornabaio said. “Where we practice dictates the size of the team [and] who can be on the team, because if we have a small practice space we can’t have a big team.”

Fornabaio feels the University is behind in its planning. “They probably should have addressed it with us a little bit earlier than they have, because that space is used a lot throughout the year by so many different groups,” Fornabaio said. “To not have a contingency plan in place earlier just seems kind of silly.”

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