Upcoming projects await new Academic Center

Although the Academic Center officially opened for classes this fall, a few projects are still in the works for the new building. Geographically located in between the east and west sides of campus, it serves as a center point for the whole college. While the essential purpose of the building was to house classrooms and offices, it was also envisioned as a social center where people will cross paths with one another all day long, “encourage student-faculty and student-student interaction and generate intellectual engagement and dialogue,” according to President Gordon “Mike” Michalson.

The initially planned café inside the facility was meant to embody this vision. While the space that the café was expected to go into has been outfitted with the utilities for a café, a lack of sufficient funds ultimately prevented the tentatively-titled Empty Set Café from opening.

“After plans of a pizzeria were too expensive, we planned to have a sandwich or sub shop that was going to be managed under the Four Winds Café,” New College Student Alliance (NCSA) co-president Michael Long explained. “This plan goes back several years when the plans for the Academic Center developed.”

NSCA co-president Oliver Peckham received the upsetting news over the summer, but has confirmed that students will still have control over what the space ends up being.

“The café’s purpose was to make that a new student area,” Long said. “Food attracts people. But when that was no longer an option, Oliver and I thought, ‘What was the next best thing to accomplish that same goal? What do we have a need for?’”

“We need a place to congregate on the other side of campus,” Peckham added. “That’s something we haven’t really nailed down yet. That space is a prime space that would be ideal for a lounge, which is something we don’t really have in that area.”

Currently, plans for a student lounge are being developed, and are in the stages of collecting student input to determine what students want out of that space.

The first interest meeting was held on Sunday, Sept. 25. Students mainly discussed what the space should be used for, aesthetics for the space and the design and layout of furniture, ranging from lava lamps to sleeping pods to (approved by unanimous consensus) La-Z-Boys.

“The key really is that it needs to be a student life space,” Peckham said. “It needs to be something that we can access 24/7. But you also want faculty to feel comfortable coming in there during the day. The trick is a space by students for students and faculty.”

A $20,000 budget has been allocated for the Academic Center room, and nothing that will be purchased for the room is going to be coming from student funds. There is also approximately $20,000-30,000 that is going to be appropriated towards public art for the Academic Center, in which a portion may be used for art in the available student space.

Long also stressed the flexibility of the space. “Let’s make this space something that students can rearrange or arrange how they see sit fit because you have new group of students that come in every few years,” he said. “You have different demands and needs as time changes.”

If the money does become available to retrofit a café into the space, the room is still capable of handling a café at any point in the future.

The space may also be an answer to respecting student noise issues. “Students have said there is no place to go late at night where it is quiet [on some nights],” Peckham explained. “The Academic Center room could be purposed as such a place for students. All of our student-controlled spaces have been in Hamilton Center, and that’s really limiting in a lot of ways.”

Security issues have been taken to account with discussions of the room being open 24/7. Campus police will patrol the area once the room is accessible and an encoded ID card will be required to gain access.

According to Long, the goal is have the student lounge up and running at least by the end of January.

Another project that is currently in the process is providing outdoor furniture on all three levels of the building opposite faculty offices, allowing students to work with professors in the outdoor environment.

New College Senor Architect Jack Whelan explained that the construction of a bell tower is in the preliminary planning stages. The bell tower will be made possible through a donation from philanthropist Beverly Koski and will be adjacent to the Jane Bancroft Cook Library, in the plaza connecting the Library to the Academic Center.

“We’re hoping the space is functioning to everyone’s satisfaction,” Whelan said. “This is real kind of a first of what might be buildings for New College. It will hopefully become the center pivotal point by which the campus can grow in the future.”

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