A student-led effort to revamp certain spaces in Lerner Hall has been put on hold while its organizers try to get more students involved.
The Student Space Initiative got off to a strong start last semester, when several administrators expressed support for its proposal to renovate Lerner’s Broadway Room. But the initiative’s momentum has slowed since then, partly because several of its original organizers graduated in May.
The initiative’s remaining organizers say that their next step is to recruit members for a committee to advise administrators.
“Once we have an actual committee on board, then we can start formulating plans, in terms of how we are going to not just look at the Broadway space, but our big task for last semester was looking at what are the alternatives around campus—what can we move around, and so that’s a larger question of space use on campus,” Yanyi Luo, CC ’13, said. Luo, who is vice president of student life on the Columbia College Student Council, is one of SSI’s organizers, although it’s not a council initiative.
The initiative was conceived last semester by a group of students who believed that student space on campus, particularly in Lerner Hall, is insufficient. Those students proposed remodeling the Broadway Room and the neighboring Piano Lounge by putting glass doors in the Piano Lounge, turning the Broadway Room into a non-reservable student lounge, and adding a kitchen.
But the proposal was opposed by the Activities Board at Columbia, which oversees many of the dance, theater, and musical groups that frequently reserve the Broadway Room for practice.
Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright said that the new SSI committee will serve as a conduit between the student body and the administration, helping administrators figure out the best course of action amidst competing student interests. Wright added that he would like to see all students, not just undergraduates, represented on the committee.
“I think the most important thing for myself as an administrator is to get information, literal or just a sense of what students want for this building that I manage,” he said. “I don’t have a perspective on what is right or wrong for this case.”
Both administrators and students decided that a student committee would be the next step in planning any renovations.
“We said there needs to be some way that groups who use the Broadway Room, and would be affected by a change, have the chance to hear the proposals and weigh in on what would be affected by them,” Wright said. “A committee is a way to do it. There was an agreement at the end of the summer there needed to be a broader student input.”
Luo also noted that communication between the administration and students interested in the initiative was often difficult last semester due to a lack of a formal venue for students to express their opinions.
“The idea of SSI is that there should be a body of students who are voicing those concerns very directly,” Luo said, adding that she hopes the committee will be established by the end of the month.
Columbia College Class of 2014 President Conan Cassidy, Logan Donovan, SEAS ’13, and Josh Arky, CC ’13, are also involved in the initiative. In addition to the Lerner Hall rooms, they are considering ways to revamp other student spaces, especially residential lounges.
Luo said that some lounges could potentially be good venues for dance, music, and theater groups if the Broadway Room is renovated.
“Can we use that space in a more efficient way? That’s a question that should be asked by students,” she said.
Yasmin Gagne contributed reporting.