Deteriorating buildings fill campus
Jessica Guerrucci – Managing Editor
Haljit Basuljevic – Contributor
Jackson LaMar – Contributor
Benji Ruscoe – Contributor
Faith Williams – Contributor
Light pours into the building, illuminating old file cabinets and papers as dust dances in the sunlight. The doors are chained shut, the grass overgrown — what was known as the Student Center is empty.
The main question — What is the future of the old Student Center? — has not been answered. .The building has not been in use since the opening of the Adanti Student Center in 2006 — and it is not the only space with this situation. The Pelz Gymnasium pool is drained and its doors have been locked for the last several years. North Campus stands isolated from the rest of campus. The library, meant only to hold three or four departments, now holds 21 and new buildings are in the works, meaning more space will be vacated.
“We asked, ‘What is the use? What are the future plans?’” said Alexis Zhitomi, president of the Student Government Association. “Because we know that the university is tight on space.”
SGA discussed the issue of space utilization at their meeting on Nov. 1, including the old student center.
“It costs money to keep a facility like that running, so they had it shut down,” said Tim Quill, men’s and women’s swimming head coach.
Three or four years ago, Quill said, the Pelz Gymnasium pool had been abandoned. However, repairing Pelz in its entirety, according to a 2006 SCSU Master Plan, would cost $1.5 million.
As the oldest running facility on campus, built-in 1952, there have been ideas to scrap Pelz entirely. Possible replacements for Pelz included a recreation facility for swimming, a media arts center, a physical education classroom building, or a student services and administration building.
“It’s a shame that [students] are subjected to this,” said co-coordinator of physical education Pat Panichas, as she pointed to the chipped paint falling from the vents above the women’s locker room. Though there are yet no concrete plans for what will happen with Pelz and the old student center, music major Jack Spencer, a sophomore, said he believes renovations would benefit the campus. “I actually would like the school to do something with that building [old student center],” Spencer said. “I don’t know what, but it’s pretty big in there. [There’s got to be] something we can use it for.” As the business school grows, Susan Rapini, director of External Relations for the School of Business, said the current building is too small. This issue is one she said can hopefully be remedied by the construction of what Robert Sheeley, associate vice president for Capital Budgeting and Facilities, said will be a $33 million new School of Business building.
Sheeley said the university stayed away from using the space because of plans to turn it into a fine arts building further into the future.
The School of Business now houses two classrooms for its 1,168 undergraduate and graduate students, according to the SCSU School of Business 2018- 2019 Annual Report.
The new building and additional space is something associate professor of economics and finance, Younjun Kim said he hopes will create a better sense of community and improve relationships between students and their professors, as well as the relationships between professors. There are also plans for a new Health and Human Services building, which will unite several different departments.
“If our building had more classrooms, then more courses could be taught in this building and then students may have more interaction with faculty members and students can easily visit office hours right after class,” said Kim.
The fragmentation of the business school and the lack of community that Kim said exists goes beyond just business students. The issue of space also impacts students who live in the North Campus Residence Hall, which the 2006 Master Plan described as isolated from the other residence halls on campus.
“If you’re in the residential quad, you hear the music playing because all the residential halls are right around it,” said North Campus resident and communication disorders major Christina Costa, a senior, “but because we don’t hear it or see it happening, there’s not a desire to go. I believe that since we’re so far away we don’t participate in as much and that’s disappointing.”
In the case of residence halls, North Campus Residential Complex is an example of Southern having to work with challenges regarding space on campus. In between the main academic quad and the Wintergreen administrative building lies the Beaverdale Memorial Park cemetery, which according to the 2006 Master Plan, “allows no expansion to unify in the middle of the campus.
” North Campus was originally private housing before being purchased by the university in the 1990s, according to Sheeley. “If you look at any other campus, it’s not that far removed,” said Sheeley. “We needed more space for residents since there were more applications for residency and we took advantage.”
North Campus housed a combined 512 residents in its high-rise and townhouse buildings during the fall 2019 semester, more than any other residence hall on Southern’s campus, according to the Office of Residence Life.
Conversely, the 250,000 square foot Buley Library, filled by departments that have secured spaces, leaves little for students to work in, according to Clara Ogbaa, Southern’s library director.
Ogbaa, who worked as a librarian at SCSU at the time of planning, said the plans created about 15 years ago were only somewhat put in place.
She said she is disappointed in what the library has come out to be. “Leave it as what it was designed to be,” Ogbaa said.
Initially intended to have only three or four departments inside, Buley Library now hosts 21 departments, including classrooms, first year and sophomore programs and multiple IT stations on various floors.
Healthcare studies major Zoe Stradinger, a junior, said that as a sophomore, she was in a study room everyday but now she chooses to sit in the common areas in the library.
“Usually all of the rooms are all booked up when I’m free so now I just come sit in this spot,” Stradinger said.
Ogbaa said her goal is for the library to have fewer offices and departments and more study rooms, so it is a place students are able to get their work done to succeed in their education. There are rooms that have not been finished for use since 2015, Ogbaa said, and have since been locked off.
“This is all useful space that could be turned into study spaces for students,” she said, “but the university is not making much of an effort to do so.”