Last night, the College held an an open meeting to discuss proposed changes to Keefe Campus Center, including the relocation of the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) and Women’s Center to more prominent locations in the building and the moving of the Game Room to the second floor. Today, students will vote in a non-binding poll to support or oppose the proposed changes. Last night’s meeting was the first time some students gave input on the move; today’s poll may be the last say of the student body on the matter. This short window of opportunity is symptomatic of a myopic process that has been unsympathetic to the sentiments of the broader student body while re-envisioning a space so relevant to all members of the College community.
During last night’s meeting, students voiced their ideas about the proposed changes to the Campus Center. Very crucial opinions and concerns representing a spectrum of issues — of both the opponents and supporters of the various moves — that should have been solicited in the incipient stages of planning are now difficult to address when a move seems imminent. Yet, it seems strange for the move to go forward without addressing them. Important issues such as staffing both the Multicultural Resource Center and the Women’s Center, defining and implementing a specific mission for the two spaces and organizations responsible for them, and recognizing social benefits from the visibility and unstructured space provided by the Game Room presented fundamental challenges to any proposed change to the Campus Center. Such problems cannot be remedied by simple and superficial revisions to the proposed changes but rather require a complete reevaluation of the process, which is impossible at this point after a two-question non-binding poll encapsulates the student’s final word.
The questions are not just one of simple binaries; do students want this change or not, do students support the MRC more or the Game Room more, and so on. The questions involved are more nuanced: what is the best way to improve the Campus Center as a more inclusive and anti-oppressive space that also allows for the leisure, relaxation and community building activities? What are the opinions of the entire student body, and where are their suggestions for what is best for their own community? These are questions that take an entire semester of extensive discussion and dialogue between different interest groups and the student body at large. Why was last night’s meeting not held months earlier when the time and flexibility were available to address these issues so critical to re-envisioning of the Campus Center? For many students, the proposed changes seem spontaneous and suddenly thrown upon them, when in fact they have been carefully deliberated on for some time. A MRC special committee with at-large seats and an AAS Space Allocation have provided a means for students and their representatives to voice ideas. Students who were passionate about this issue should have used these avenues to engage in these conversations right from the start. The fault lies, however, with the creators of the plan as well, for they should have be more vocal and publicized better to ensure that there was substantial student input before they moved forward with their decision. The move was not a secretive one, nor did it lack transparency. However, there is a sense that the administration has acted unilaterally on an issue especially impactful to the broader community, as indicated by a non-binding poll in place of a binding referendum.
Today’s poll represents the students’ final word and regardless of the result, hopefully, it provides a decisive answer reflective of the campus community.