Students Discuss Proposed Changes to Keefe
Issue   |   Wed, 11/28/2012 - 02:08
Photo by Alissa Rothman '15
On Tuesday, Nov. 25, students met in Merrill to discuss the proposed changes to Keefe Campus Center.

After over a month and a half of meetings with groups across campus, a joint committee of administration, staff and student representatives put together a proposal listing potential changes within Keefe Campus Center that they hope would help re-envision the goals of campus.

“This is the probably the third or fourth proposal that we’ve created and talked about. This one seems like the best compromise for all of the groups involved. We’re trying to find more space for more centers, and trying to expand centers, in a building that is the same exact size as it was before. So everyone had to make compromises in this process,” said Association of Amherst Students (AAS) secretary Noah Gordon ’14.

The changes started with a wish to relocate the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) from a small basement room to a more prominent location in the building by moving it to the room on the first floor where the game room is currently located. Furthermore, the back area where the ping-pong tables are currently located would become a meeting space that any student group can reserve. This plan involved moving the game room to the second floor to part of the space currently occupied by The Student. It was decided that this would be an optimal place to move the game room due to it relative visibility and central location. However, with recent events and discussions on campus, it was decided that the Women’s Center would also benefit from a more visible and accessible campus location. The current plan would place the Women’s Center, who also currently occupies a small basement room, on the second floor in some of the space currently used by WAMH Radio where it would have greater visibility while still providing an area for private meetings and anonymity that some of their meeting necessitate. The two rooms in the basement are tentatively slated to be utilized as an AAS office and a conference room, however that part of the plans is still open for debate. For floor plans, visit www.amherst.edu/campuslife/aas/keefemove

“We’ve been trying to come up with ways and solutions to figure out how we can use Keefe Campus Center, which is not a fantastic space to start with, to fit everything we want to fit into it … and trying to figure out how we can accommodate everything given the current space that we have in Keefe,” said AAS president Tania Dias ’13.

Many of these moves would involve renovations of the spaces, including knocking down walls, building walls in different locations, brightening up rooms and more.

“One of the other things we have been talking about in conjunction with all of this work, the building just needs a facelift inside. So, we will be repainting everything from the lobby areas, new carpeting everywhere to redoing the walls and really brightening up things with new lighting, including more windows,” said Peter Root, Capital Projects Manager.

The committee is now looking for student opinion on these proposed changes and more ideas of what to do with the space.

At an open meeting on Nov. 27 to discuss the proposal, that included representatives from the Student Activities Office, the MRC, the AAS and the student groups affected by the move.

At the open meeting, students expressed a wide range of opinions about the plans. Most of the conversation focused on what would be on the first floor space.

Some students stated that they didn’t want the game room to move from its current location, and instead felt that the MRC could move to the second floor in the space currently slotted for the game room. Though they all expressed agreement that the MRC needs a larger space, they felt that it would be better for the game room to not have to move from its current location.

“I like the game room where it is… It’s a place where you have fun and it’s an unstructured place on campus, and there aren’t many of them…. I think there is a lot of value students gain from the game room, and its location and size are very important,” said Amani Ahmed ’15. “I think there is something special about having a place that doesn’t have a label on it and that it’s location makes it more like a campus center.”
Others agreed, stating that the game room is more important than just a place to for students to play games.

“As a campus center manager and someone who likes to spend time in the game room, I’ve seen lots of groups coming in, lots of students. I’ve noticed that Friday and Saturday nights it’s well attended, as well as throughout the day. I think that it may be more important than we realize to have it where it is now. Should we move it, we may lose something without noticing it,” said Kate Sisk ’14. “On Friday and Saturday nights there are a lot of students there because it’s a great space for students who choose not to engage in drinking culture on campus to get together and enjoy their weekends. Also, during the day, it’s a free space for students to engage. With the way it is now it has the ability to bring different groups together. You know, one group of friends goes in to play pool and then another group comes in and plays on the second table, and as I’m going out on my rounds I see groups of students that have never met engaging in conversation with one another, which is something in the recent discussion on campus that we keep saying is really needed. I think that should it move upstairs it may not happen because there is going to be less space.”

Others also expressed the importance of providing a non-stress area for students on campus.

“I think to move the game room to a less visible space is to take away one place where people can see other people admitting that they need a break in their day to just engage with other people… I fear that to take away this place where you can see kids engaging in that,” Reilly Horan ’13.

However, other felt that the MRC would benefit much more from a move to the main floor than a move to the second floor and that students would continue to utilize the game room whether it was on the first or second floor.

“I think the MRC should be moved to the first floor. I think the game room will be just fine upstairs. I think students will be able to see each other in those lights of having a break, sharing that moment with each other, relaxing, whatever, in a different space. I think having the MRC on the first floor would not only be a significant move for the center, to be able to have a space in order to create necessary resources for students who are underrepresented on this campus, and I think it will be a symbolic move in terms of the importance of that center to campus as a whole and the community,” said Briana Hanny ’13. “I think having the MRC on the first floor will say something about our priorities as a campus to deal with issues of multicultural education, of anti-racism, of anti-gender violence, and I think that will say something about what we prioritize on this campus and what we value.”

Others agreed, expressing that the first floor location would hopefully draw more students into the MRC and the programming the first floor location would allow the center to have.

“I think what we would be gaining ideally a new space that, though not unlabeled, can be an open space. People are meeting in the game room because they are going in to play games and they will still be able to meet new groups in the game room upstairs. The issues we discuss in the MRC affect everyone on campus… and I think the game room can be a place where you have to walk into the atrium and you can’t see it from outside, but if you were going to play a game you still can do that, except now you may be walking past and see a gathering of people in the MRC, and you can stop in and have some ideally enlightened conversations,” said Tian Buzbee, a peer programmer for the MRC.

Furthermore, others felt that the women’s center should also receive a first floor location. Some even suggested moving the women’s center to the space currently occupied by the Center of Community Engagement (CCE).

“We have an opportunity now as a campus community to foster palpable change… I think the Women’s Center needs to incorporate education and programing, and that’s one of the reasons why I think it belongs on the first floor. I think it might be better availed to these expanded goals on the first floor than it would on the second floor,” said Ryan Arnold ’15E.

However, others disagreed with this, stressing that the center would need a place for private meetings.

“I am in favor of the upstairs space because I feel it does fulfill our privacy need as well as give us an expanded space where we can have a resource library and office space, because I would ideally love to get this staffed, and still have a discussion space where meeting can be held that is still private and can be booked as specific times for privacy and allow groups that are currently meeting there to continue,” said Maia Mares ’14, a co-chair of the Gender Justice Collective.

Others simply expressed the need for these centers to have their own structures on campus, without Keefe, though that would be more of a long term goal.

“At other colleges you see there building are stand alone, because they value them enough to have them be placed in a central location. We shouldn’t be having to argue about whose trauma is worse, the Women’s Center’s or the MRC’s. There is enough land here were we should be able to value them equally,” said Larissa Davis ’13.

Overall, students agreed that it was necessary to have more conversations about what the MRC and Women’s Center are going to be, such as what staffing, programing and resources they will offer to make them functioning centers. There will be two committees (one for each center) discussing these issues in the future (though the committee dealing with the MRC has already been created).

“The feedback that the students have shared at this meeting will go into the conversations and the feedback that we’ve received in the suggestion box, the conversations we’ve had with student organizations that currently reside in spaces, so that all of that collective feedback will be considered as the institution moves forward with making a decision. Tonight’s comments and student involvement and their thoughts will be very important as we move forward,” said Assistant Dean of Students and Director of the Campus Center Hannah Fatemi.“The hope is to continue to move these projects along. I don’t know what the exact time frame is, but I know that there is energy and enthusiasm to begin to make some changes to allow for the centers to grow and expand.”

Student feedback about the Campus Center moves and the MRC and Women’s Center are still greatly welcomed, including responses to the survey sent out by the AAS for today, Nov. 28 about the move proposals. Students are encouraged to continue getting involved.

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