When administrators announced the opening of two new dance rooms on the first floor of Schapiro Hall last fall, dance groups rejoiced. But when they tried to use the space, they found the rooms too small and disproportionate, and there was a structural pillar in the middle of one of them.
Columbia College Student Council President Karishma Habbu, CC ’13, wants to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Building on last year’s Student Space Initiative, CCSC is working with the Engineering Student Council and Campus Services to reallocate and update spaces ranging from the Schapiro dance rooms to the Ruggles Hall basement.
“We have these unused spaces on campus, which either could be snazzed up a little bit or even just used,” Habbu said. “So instead of kind of a reinventing of the wheel, or trying to spend tons of money, or trying to change this 10-year game plan, let’s use what we have. We have these unused space—let’s see what we can do with them.”
Council leaders took a tour of spaces in Ruggles, Claremont, Wien, Kent, Schapiro, and East Campus on Friday, thinking about possible uses and renovations. Leading the tour was the Vice President of Campus Services Scott Wright, who has worked with Habbu and ESC President Tim Qin, SEAS ’13, since the project’s inception.
“I can’t think of any new spaces that we could introduce to the community, whether it’s the residential community or Lerner Hall,” Wright said. “However, what we can do is look at some of the spaces that are underutilized, particularly in the residence halls. And as we have these spaces worked into a capital plan for renovation, that’s where we’re working very closely with student leadership, student activities, and, again, deans and other folks.”
Habbu called the dearth of student space “one of the biggest struggles on campus.” Qin said that the councils plan to open a discussion among students before making any decisions about how to repurpose student spaces.
“We want to try to plan out efficiently, with everyone involved, how to deal with these issues,” Qin said.
Student groups would welcome the creation or renovation of any new student space.
“What we’ve seen in the past few years is there are so many student groups and so many events—which is a great thing,” said Saketh Kalathur, CC ’13 and president of the Activities Board at Columbia. “But unfortunately, the space that we have available, especially Lerner, just hasn’t been able to keep up with demand.”
One of the groups vying for more space is FeelGood CU, which cooks grilled cheese sandwiches in exchange for suggested charitable donations. Due to objections from city health inspectors, the group can no longer use its spot at the entrance to JJ’s Place this year.
FeelGood CU co-president Murrill Oakes, BC ’13, said that the group needs a high-traffic space to work in.
“Ideally, something in Lerner would be great, but if we were offered a space in the basement of a residence hall, I would be absolutely thrilled,” Oakes said. “Us being located in a residence hall would definitely make us still accessible to students.”
Besides opening up more space, Wright said that Campus Services is also trying to use existing student space more efficiently. Wright believes that the neglected Schapiro dance rooms, for instance, can be repurposed.
“We’re talking to the students in Schapiro about, wouldn’t it be better if we made it a fitness room?” he said. “Fitness rooms, many times, look exactly like dance space, except they have fitness equipment on them.”
Wright emphasized that he wants to provide students with as much space as possible.
“If we have empty space that’s not being used, we’re going to find a way to use it,” he said.