Oct. 16 will be a very important day in the history of the College. That morning, we will inaugurate Biddy Martin as the College’s first female president. The ceremony should be a grand event, with the crowd facing the Holyoke Mountains while the band and choir proclaim the historic moment. Representatives from the other schools in the NESCAC, local leaders and other dignitaries will all be present as witnesses to the grand event. The ceremony sounds like a wonderful thing, save for one thing — it’s outside, and Massachusetts is rainy. When the forward-thinking person inquires as to the rainout location, he may be dismayed to find out that the backup site is Johnson Chapel.
There’s nothing wrong with the Chapel, per se. It’s a great, old building, and there was a time when it would have been able to hold everyone on campus with room to spare. That day, however, is long gone. The College currently enrolls over 1,700 students; the maximum capacity of the Chapel is 600. It would take three packed Johnson Chapels to hold the entire student body, let alone the faculty, staff and other invitees. Even though turnout for campus events is notoriously low, and it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone invited to inauguration will attend, there ought to be a place on campus that can handle
the demand for more room.
While Martin’s inauguration will be one of the major events of the year, and while it will undoubtedly draw a significant crowd, it is not the only event in need of extra space. Convocation is currently held in the Chapel, but this has been difficult to manage; this year, the number of attendees was sufficient that the ushers began repossessing space in the balcony that was designated for the Choral Society, and only with a significant amount of cramming and standing was the audience finally able to be accommodated. Commencement, too, demands a significantly larger amount of space than the Chapel can provide, given the fact that an entire class, along with their parents and professors, would have to fit inside in case of rain.
The space doesn’t need to be utilized only for those major annual events, however. With the promise of an auditorium that could seat, perhaps, 2,000 persons, the College and the various organizations on campus may be able to lure speakers and artists that normally wouldn’t give us a second thought. It is a known fact that the College is far behind its peer institutions in attracting major speakers to campus; the AAS even formed a committee to address the issue. Maybe if we built a space that could house a large number of people, the College could accomodate those personages that would draw a crowd.
It’s important for the College to upgrade the science center. The campus has needed new social dorms for years. Still, it is vital to this campus to have the kind of space necessary to house major events, speakers and concerts. It is arguable that the construction of this kind of building is even more important; after all, Merrill is perfectly functional, MacGuire is brand new and if people didn’t want to live in the Socials they wouldn’t pick them at room draw. On the other hand, outside of the athletic center, we have nothing that can house anywhere near 1,000 people. Therefore, we believe that it is imperative that the College construct a building that can meet the demands of the student body and its various events.