by GABRIELLA DEPINHO, News Editor
In the middle of the Student Government Assembly meeting, before the assembly lost quorum, the meeting shifted to a housing updates meeting that Student Engagement had originally advertised as a separate meeting.
After assembly announcements were finished, President Jaycie Cooper called forward Janet Stegman to begin her presentation.
While Stegman set up her computer with her presentation, Vice President for Student Life, Richard Satterlee, Ph.D, introduced her.
“[Stegman] is a consultant and an architect who has been working with the college. She’s been engaged with the college since August in looking at our residence halls and recommending renovations, upgrades, refreshes to our five residence halls,” said Satterlee.
He shared that she had been on campus in November to share proposed updates but her meeting took place concurrently with the Student Government Assembly meeting at which commencement was discussed, so the school wanted to bring Stegman back to the assembly to have another chance to present to students.
Stegman first arrived on campus in August and walked through all of the residence halls with Andrew Ryan, Vice President of Facilities, and Satterlee, to see what she would be working with. As soon as students were back on campus, they started meeting with students in focus groups to get as much feedback as possible.
“That’s the way we really get a sense on how to approach buildings and what things are on students’ minds as they’re living in the halls,” said Stegman.
Stegman came up with preliminary ideas based on the feedback and then revisited the halls to see if the ideas would work with the existing structures. Stegman’s team came up with concepts which were then presented and again modified. She was back at the assembly meeting for feedback on more finalized proposals.
“The college is engaged with an engineering group and we’re collaborating with them to see what is actually possible because sometimes when you try to do things to older buildings, the buildings try to fight you a little bit, so this can be as mundane as trying to get more power to buildings or the right kind of power, trying to change the way the air conditioning is working, even things as to how you renovate bathrooms and is there a capacity to change the amount of exhaust air. These are very technical things so that’s why we have engineers that we’re working with and talking to,” said Stegman.
Stegman hopes to put numbers on the proposed projects by the end of the month to be able to bring these propositions to the Board of Trustees at the end of March.
Stegman said, “The preliminary take from students was building conditions, there was a lack of variety in unit types – not enough apartment or independent style units. We got a sense that … Chrysostom provides a great first year experience … We also talked to students about the notion of a two year residency requirement and we really did not get any negative feedback to that.”
Stegman also noted that most students wanted more meal plan options.
Stegman’s consultation also looked at common room spaces and program areas.
“Everyone really raved about the lower floor in Jasper, which was renovated fairly recently, and so what you will see today is our attempts to bring some of that character to other spaces on campus,” said Stegman.
Stegman’s presentation showed that plans to spread this character to other spaces included small spaces throughout Chrysostom, the second floor lounge of Jasper, lounges in Horan and even small modifications to the lounges in Lee.
After assessing all student feedback, the consultation also has taken into great consideration as to what changes are most important to students.
The feedback told Stegman’s team that students want more single options, more suites with kitchenettes, things that would “give upperclassmen more autonomy,” bathroom updates, and faster and better maintenance. Stegman commented on the proposed bathroom renovations.
“Let me tell you, I spend a lot of time doing bathrooms in campus housing. We’ve learned a lot over the years, sometimes it’s just things that change the quality, make it feel more like a space you want to be in. This can just be things like changing the countertops, adding more tiles, better lighting, mirrors…” said Stegman.
Some proposed updates to Chrysostom Hall include turning the small alcove into a sitting space, updating the bathrooms and potentially turning the fourth floor into a single option for upperclassmen, leaving the other three of the floors to provide a positive first year experience for freshmen. Another proposed idea is getting more lofting furniture to make the rooms feel larger.
In Jasper Hall, she noted that some of the bathrooms were renovated over the break; however Jasper resident, Marshall Strawbridge, noted that while the sixth floor bathroom now looked nicer, it was still experiencing the same drainage issue it had before the renovations took place. Stegman recognized that that renovation was an emergency renovation.
Some proposed updates to Jasper Hall include adding more color to the hallways, better lighting, larger sign boards for the floors, as well as the aforementioned proposed update to the second floor lounge. The proposed update to the lounge includes new lighting, carpeted floors and study booths.
For Lee Hall, Stegman proposed adding color to the corridors, especially around suite entryways, and expanding the size of the windows into the common rooms to change the character of the space.
For Horan Hall, quite a few updates were proposed.
Stegman proposed updates to the bathrooms by adding tiles, colors and LED lighting, making the mirrors larger and changing the bathtub out for just a shower unit. Stegman also proposed adding color, adding light fixtures or changing the tiling around suite doors to “announce” when you’ve arrived at the suite. There were also proposed updates in color, flooring and lighting to the common rooms in Horan.
The next proposition for Horan Hall was the most drastic. Instead of bringing back the infamous “10 mans” that Horan used to have at the end of each corridor, Stegman’s proposition is to add the door back in but to make that a suite with a kitchenette. There are a few iterations as to how to make this plan work, including having a bath and a half or losing one bedroom.
Plans for Overlook include adding more color to the corridors and making sure exterior conditions and maintenance is taken care of.
Stegman then opened the floor to questions and comments from the students.
Strawbridge started with his comment about the Jasper bathrooms not being fixed and asking about following up on that renovation before sharing his thoughts about the renovations.
“It doesn’t seem like they were done with consideration to the users. For example, we have racks in the showers but they’re not actually good for the types of people who have to use them because they remind me of something that would be in the house where you have your conditioner and your body wash and you wouldn’t move it but it’s not really good for if I have a bag of stuff or a shower caddy. Not only in the shower but the sinks,” said Strawbridge.
Strawbridge also commented on having this issue when he previously lived in Lee Hall; this comment took Stegman by surprise as she did not realize that some students who live suite style opt to bring their toiletries back and forth from their rooms, instead of leaving it in the bathroom.
Stegman proposed doing counters in the bathrooms, both in communal style dorms and in suite style dorms, and possibly adding racks underneath the sinks in Lee and Horan. There was also a discussion about the lack of changing spaces in some of Jasper’s bathrooms.
Jara Giner, who previously lived in Jasper, commented that if the bathroom is in the wing, because of the building configuration, it will not have the changing spaces.
Junior Donovan Reilly, who lives in Horan Hall, raised his concern about the timing of the proposed changes.
“I just want to say that I think this is an outstanding proposal, especially with the fixation on colors, by adding colors to our floors and residence halls alone would definitely bring such an amazing vibe to our residence halls … because it feels like …. you’re more or less in a jail but I was just wondering with your projection, if everything goes smoothly come March, when is this going to start?”
Richard Satterlee, Ph.D, answered his question. Satterlee said the goal was to start in the next academic year.
“One thing we have to our advantage, which isn’t always viewed as an advantage, is that we have a slightly lower occupancy right now so getting at some of these spaces for this work is possible… It appears we have this window of opportunity so it’s really important we get our ducks in a row to get to this stuff in a timely way,” said Satterlee.
The school still does not have an estimate as to how much it will cost, which will determine how much the school can get done and when.
Other concerns raised by students included the size of the bathrooms and the quality of the facilities in Overlook, which are comparable to the size of bathrooms throughout New York City, the ventilation in Horan, how turning doubles into singles will affect campus capacity, the lack of ovens in dorm buildings besides Jasper, the awkward sizes of some rooms in Lee and faulty locks on doors to rooms throughout the campus.