Section: Must read

Master plan sparks discussion

Master plan sparks discussion

By Victoria Ungvarsky

“They obviously can’t do construction while people are living in those buildings. So I’m wondering, are they going to move the freshman anywhere, and if so, will they be together as they are now? Because if they’re not, I don’t really like that idea,” Jalon Eason ’17 said. Eason is a First-Year community advisor on. When he first heard of proposed renovations to the campus, including the current first year housing area in the newly released campus master plan, Eason was skeptical about its effect on the school. “I feel like freshman year should be a time of growing community when you’re coming into college,” Eason said. He is hopeful, but so far unconvinced that the master plan will achieve that goal.

Developed with the assistance of the architects at Gund Partnership, the campus master plan, has received mixed responses to its debut. The plan is estimated to cost $400 million, which is more than twice the College’s endowment. From now until April, the College will begin a detailed assessment of areas with the greatest need, specifically residential and academic areas, as well as improving the Village.

“The plan itself at this stage is really a menu — a list of possible options for Kenyon to pursue,” President Sean Decatur wrote in an email to the Collegian. “The next stage is to actually make choices on the menu — to identify the parts of the plan that will have the greatest impact on the institution and the program ahead.”

Within the Kenyon community, the plan has been met with mixed reactions. Some have praised the designs for addressing the needs of an outdated campus while others have complained of chronic construction and an alteration of Kenyon’s collegiate gothic aesthetic.

In terms of academic spaces, one of the biggest projects in the plan is the renovation of Olin-Chalmers Library. “I think that one of the things we would love to see is much more flexible student space, study spaces,” Associate Vice President for LBIS and Library Director Amy Badertscher said. “It’s just finding ways to engage the students in the fact that the library exists.”

Another major aspect of the plan is renovating existing facilities to help modernize the campus and increase accessibility. Some agree that retrofitting spaces such as Ascension Hall with elevators is a difficult but necessary task, including Director of Student Accessibility and Support Services Erin Salva, who praised the master plan for addressing issues of accessibility. “It’s interesting because … Ascencion was built in many different stages,” Salva said. “So you have these half floors, so the elevator would have, I think, six stops.”

However, the addition of elevators in Ascension would reduce the number of classrooms in the building. This prompts another more controversial element of the master plan: the creation of a “West Quad.” This new quad would feature a new academic building, a new administrative building to centralize the office of the President, the Alumni & Parent Program Office and the Annual Giving Office and an “arts district” with facilities for the dance, drama and film departments.

This new performing arts facility would replace the aging Hill and Bolton Theaters. “The department has grown in the number of students and in the majors we offer,” Professor of Drama Jonathan Tazewell wrote in an email to the Collegian. “To remain one of the top College programs, we need to upgrade the facilities we have.” Although these new facilities are enticing, Tazewell remains skeptical of the timeliness of the project. “However, [the department] may not be what the College considers the top campaign priority,” he said.

To create a new home for dance, drama and film would require moving the English department’s Sunset Cottage to the other side of Bailey House, creating an “English Quad” with two additional facilities.

Professor of English Jim Carson found the creation of the West Quad and the relocation of Sunset Cottage rather unsettling. “The very fact that we have a master plan that calls for the moving of Sunset Cottage might prevent money being spent on Sunset Cottage where it already is,” he said. Carson expressed concern that the sizable West Quad would mean an expansion of space for College administration at the expense of greenery.

Updating residential areas is also a major component of the campus master plan. Associate Director for Housing and Residential Life Lisa Train felt generally positive about the expansion of housing options on campus but said she would “like to see some new, traditional-type residential halls” in the vein of residential halls on south campus.

The new residence halls would increase the number of beds on campus from 1,778 to 2237. Decatur denied that this increase means that the College plans to increase its enrollment, instead citing a need for student housing during construction.

“One pressing need on this front is the addition of new beds that would give the College ‘swing space’ to renovate other residence halls,” Decatur said. “Since we don’t have enough beds now to accomplish this, we will need some additional bed capacity in order to do this.”

Other residential projects include tearing down outdated buildings such as the New Apartments as well as Manning and Bushnell Residence Halls. New halls would allow for larger room size and greater accessibility. Lin Miao ’17, who worked with Salva to present to the Board of Trustees regarding accessibility, stressed that having accessible residence spaces is important for those with mobility issues. “Problems … include no first floor laundry rooms in the residence halls,” Miao said. “If lounges spaces could be on ground level, then it would be just easier for people to have more options to hang out.” According to the federal Americans with Disabilities Act, all new buildings must feature ramps and elevators for vertical accessibility.

Although most changes take place south of the Gates of Hell, the plan proposes a dramatic redesign to “downtown” Gambier. Farr Hall would be razed to allow for expansion of businesses. The Gambier Deli and Kenyon Bookstore would remain in town, but the new design envisions new shops, restaurants and even student housing in the Village. Notably absent from the plan is a new location for the Gambier Grill.

Bookstore Manager Jim Huang is excited to have a new space for the bookstore and enjoys the new architectural design of the Village. “I’m glad that [head architect and master planner] Graham Gund ’63 recognizes that the Bookstore is the heart of the Village, and he’s preserved our place right here in the middle of things,” Huang said.

With a plan this expansive, it is unlikely that the College will be able to realize all its proposed changes, according to Decatur. As of now, the plan has only been approved by the Board, and no immediate course of action has been set. The next step is for the College to decide what it will take to transform the master plan from printed pages into reality.

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