A Crisis of Social Space

Does anyone know what is going on with Keefe? Outside of a stunning neon green and orange color scheme that shines off the walls, most of the renovation of the Student Center remains a mystery to students. A single email sent by the President in late December lists the renovations, but since then we have seen no floor plan nor a reaffirmation of the original sketch laid down. After months of supposed consultation with students, the administration went ahead with a completely different move without any student input, negating months of work and leaving the students with a campus center that has the possibility of filling none, some or all of our needs.

Renovation plans to Keefe changed often prior to that one email, and there was nothing afterwards to confirm it and/or provide a link to details. The rehabilitation of the drab old Keefe building is certainly a welcome change, but the lack of clear (or, to be honest, any) information about what we can expect during the renovations leaves students scrambling. A great number of activities occur in the campus center — club meetings, campus activities, recreation, creating student publications — and these are now all thrown into the lurch because of the poor timing or planning of this renovation.

It also remains entirely unclear as to when the renovation is actually going to finish, with no communication from the administration or really anyone on what is happening with Keefe. The renovations could be done in two weeks or two months, both of which have violently and drastically different implications for our student body and the loss of social spaces on campus. Students have to plan for events and other activities over the next few months, and the opaqueness with which the administration has carried out this renovation is nothing short of astonishing. It is almost as though the students are not worthy of knowing what is going on in our own campus center, just as we were not worthy in deciding its layout.

The complaints students are having about Campus Center renovations itself have shown what most students already know — that social spaces on campus serve important functions, and that the elimination of one of these spaces greatly impacts an already fragile public and social life at Amherst College. Keefe, as poor as it is in functioning as a social space for student life, is one of few social spaces that we already have. The loss of other social spaces at different times last year for different reasons also strained student social gathering in the short-term. However, we believe that ending the poor use of other spaces on Campus could permanently alleviate much of the angst about the lack of social life and effective social spaces.

The Student believes that attempts by the Administration to redesign and renovate spaces across campus would be backed by popular demand if they were undertaken with enhancing student social space in mind. Many spaces, ranging from O’Connor Commons to the vast Moore common room, could provide much better support for student clubs and student hangouts if they were redesigned to do so. Even Valentine Dining Hall plus a few upgrades (commonly found at other schools) such as booths, couches and around-the-clock access could be a viable hub for student life. The new science center, which almost all of us will never see during our time here, will provide some daytime relief to this problem. The Student believes social life’s intersection with social space needs to be pushed into the limelight, especially in the absence of the science center’s completion.