GLORIFIED CAFETERIA? More plans in college renovations come under fire

BY TONI LIVINGSTON

A $36 million project, which was proposed in 2000, will involve the construction of a Student Activities center, a bridge connecting the campuses and the renovation of the PepsiCo Theatre.

According to Dean of Adminstration Rose Ellis, $14 million has already been spent on the initial planning of the project.

Despite a $9 million individual budget allocated for the Student Activities center, students at the college said that they were unaware of the proposal.

While some students were recruited and directly consulted in the center’s planning process, they declined to comment on their involvement.

Chaz Blanks, treasurer for Student Government and worker at the current student lounge, said he had not heard about the center.

“The only renovations I heard about was the bridge…possibly the PepsiCo theatre,” Blanks said.

Alleyha Dannett, a 20-year-old Women’s Studies major, also said she had not heard of the center.

“I heard that they’re spending millions on [the bridge]…I had not heard of [other renovations]. Never,” Dannett said.

Based on a section of the renovation plans concerning the Student Activities center, there will be an open extension of the West Campus cafeteria.

A large multipurpose room for dining is planned, able to accomodate lectures and student club meetings that can seat up to 350 people, according to President David Levinson and Ellis.

Levinson said the center will serve as a place for students to relax, since the college offers a small amount of space solely for students.

“Right now there is very little student space at the college, so what students need is a place to congregate, hang out… [the center] will be a tremendous asset to NCC student life,” Levinson said.

Ellis also said the center would be beneficial for students.

“I think [the center] is a good idea…I think you students need space that is usable and workable,” Ellis said.

Blanks said he agreed that there was a shortage of effective student space.

“We need to make [student space] bigger…right now [the lounge] is just crammed…it’s hard to maneuver your way in and out of the room,” Blanks said.

Victor Ayala, another student worker in the current lounge, also said that it lacks space and thinks a larger Student Activities center will help students to relax more in between classes.

“I think it’s fantastic…it does get cramped [in] here a couple of times, so the more space there is, the more chances for students to enjoy themselves,” Ayala said.

Some students and faculty from the Engineering and Architectural departments are aware of the Student Activities center, but do not agree with its current designs. They also were not among those consulted in the center’s planning, which Dean Ellis confirmed.

Joseph Gonzalez, the president of the Engineering Club, said that it is only “an extension of the lunchroom” that holds little benefit for students.

“I think it’s a waste of space, waste of money. It’s almost $10 million,” Gonzalez said.

Professor Jacek Bigosinski, the faculty coordinator of architectural and construction technology, agreed with Gonzalez.

“There is no center, there is a cafeteria extension,”  Bigosinski said. ”A Student Activities center is needed, with compartments for different student activities.”

Bigosinski said that the students should have a Student Activities center where different clubs can meet, but is skeptical about the size in existing designs.

“You need room for that and there is no such thing in these [student center] designs,” Bigosinski said.

The center’s most recent design drawings, which are dated Dec. 2, 2015, show a large dining area conjoined with the new café. The café has a food-prep area, a servery, storage and booths for new food vendors.

Professor Joseph Fucigna, faculty coordinator of the Art Program, said that it is not too late for students to campaign for their spaces by speaking with administration and asking to see the center’s designs.

“I think the students need to be involved and advocates for getting space they think they deserve…because this is [student’s] one chance and if it is not done properly now, it will never be done…I know the administration in the past has listened to students,” Fucigna said.

Both Fucigna and Bigosinski also said

not done properly now, it will never be done…I know the administration in the past has listened to students,” Fucigna said.

Both Fucigna and Bigosinski also said that the energy efficiency of the center’s glass structure is questionable, considering the college is looking to become certified in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

A LEED certification requires environmentally friendly building strategies and practices.

The construction of new classrooms were another of their primary concerns, fearing that it might be passed over.

Ellis assured that the B-wing, the current Student Activities area, will be turned into classrooms.

“That area is going to be totally renovated, converted back into classrooms with proper heating and cooling, everything that’s lacking,” Ellis said.

The renovation project is funded by the bond commission of Connecticut, a state committee that reviews and decides on building projects.

The current plans were made by Mitchell and Giurgola Architects, a New York based architectural firm, according to Ellis.

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