Letter to The Editor from The Society of Friends of 517

April 11, 2022

We, The Society of Friends of 517, are the Performing Arts Students of Manhattan College. We are the workers that provide the vital elements to EVERY event in the Performing Arts; we are the thinkers and doers. We are the voice of Performing Arts. Our mission is to ensure that Lasallian Values and the School’s promises to all its students are being honored in the Performing Arts.

We are first-hand witnesses to the longstanding neglect from the College toward Thomas Hall 517. Manhattan College’s mistreatment of THO 517, and, in turn, the Performing Arts Department and its students, has taken a toll. There is evident physical deterioration of the space and the quality of the room for musical instruction. With the new Sounds Studies major, instituted in 2020, improvements and renovations to the room are long past due. Unfortunately, the space has deteriorated to the point where it has become an eyesore for tour groups, difficult to work in and around, and riddled with enduring hazards for students and our expensive instruments and equipment.

We seek the allocation of funds for repairing and refurbishing THO 517. Our research suggests that the restoration of THO 517, to a dignified standard reflecting the standard of our work, would require approximately $75,000. This money would go towards:

  • $40,000: lifting the ceiling and getting rid of the tiles (like in the Black Box)
  • $15,000: Installing new wooden floors in the room
  • $15,000: Updating and acquiring technology and equipment for the room as ours are so outdated that it cannot even run basic programs
  • $15,000: Professional soundproofing for the room and the walls and between the doors

These bare minimum requirements would create a room that the entire community could be proud of while providing a much-improved educational experience for a range of majors and students.

THO 517 is the main Performing Arts room and is pivotal for Performing Arts at Manhattan College. It is integral to the longevity and success of every performing arts group on campus. Each week hundreds of students meet for Pep Band, Jazz Band, Chamber Jazz, Singers, Manhattones, Orchestra, Players, Pipes and Drums, and Music Ministry. All students of the Performing Arts meet there to rehearse, study, or have class. The room is the centerpiece for all activities concerning the Performing Arts; it is also where most of the instruments are stored.

These problems have been going on for years and long predate the outbreak of COVID-19. Manhattan College alumni confirmed that for at least 20 years THO 517 has had multiple problems that the College has chosen to ignore. There is a reason why THO 517 is never featured in the advertisements and/or the tours that the college does for prospective new students. The Performing Arts groups are a major means of advocating for the School through open house events, Lessons & Carols, tours, private meetings, and online advertisements. We build and maintain a community on this campus. With the working and living space of the Performing Arts Department at Manhattan College in shambles, it has been and continues to be very hard to attract prospective students to want to enroll in an area that has been shunted aside by the College. When students see the condition of the room, it makes a statement about how the College values the Performing Arts. When the ceiling starts to leak while speaking to prospective students, it is hard to convince them to matriculate.

Hazards that plague the room include dangerous falling ceiling boards, floor tiles that are missing or broken, technology that is outdated, a hole covered by particle board held in place by duct tape, dreadful acoustics, and leaky pipes (e.g. On March 7, 2022, due to leakage, a ceiling panel fell into the piano, which we have had for 7 years). Heavy sound leakage often disrupts nearby offices. The collapse of the ceiling tile was a poignant manifestation of the neglect of THO 517. It makes it hard for these dedicated and hardworking students to believe that the College values their contributions as they support and represent the institution.

Manhattan College, and the presidential letter (March 4, 2022), assures the community that the five Lasallian values are what “drives everything [Manhattan College] do[es] here both in and out of the classroom.” We believe that ignoring these repairs is not consistent with Lasallian values and the promises made to us as Jaspers. That the students have continued to succeed is a tribute to them and to the institution, that should be reciprocated. Performing Arts students support the community in myriad ways such as athletics (the MAAC tournament), the recent vigil (March 25, 2022), Accepted Students Day (March 29, 2022), and the feast of De La Salle (April 7, 2022).  

Rehabilitation of THO 517 does not seem to be part of Manhattan College’s Renewing The Promise strategic plan to “ensure quality and secure facilities and infrastructure, including accountable and efficient use of technology and data that are essential for the advancement of the Lasallian Catholic mission of the College”. Alumni in the Performing Arts have told us repeatedly that it has become ever more apparent that the promise did not seem to be for them and now it does not seem to apply to us. 

We, The Society of Friends of 517, have meticulously overseen and taken care of the equipment that we have invested in and collected over the years. However, for upwards of a decade as of 2022, the Performing Arts department has faced an uphill climb to sustain its limited usability. We constantly minimize the damage of the leaks in the room, oversee the equipment, and spend long hours upkeeping the room. We have done our best to keep Manhattan College’s Music and Theater Department afloat.

However, the resources available to us have been exhausted. We can no longer cope with rapid structural deterioration. It is time for the College to invest in us as we have given to the community by ending this prolonged period of neglect for this vital educational space. We deserve and the College needs a workspace that reflects what we do and our place in the community. We urge either immediate action or the announcement of concrete plans to renovate THO 517.

We eagerly await your response at Friendsof517@gmail.com.

With earnestness and hope,

The Society of Friends of 517