March 26, 2002

West Campus Suites Showcased

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A full-size reproduction of the proposed layout for the new West Campus residence halls suites went on display yesterday at Noyes Community Center. The mock-up is designed to encourage discussion and input from students. The presentation, another step in the overall planning for the West Campus residential initiative, will run through Wednesday.

Students can walk through a replication of one of the five-person suites that will compose the five new houses proposed in the west campus plans. A lounge area, double room, single room, and bathroom are simulated in the

display. There will be two additional single rooms in each suite.

Students can voice their opinions and suggestions on comment cards and on the walls of each room. The display is similar to one done during the planning for North Campus, according to Jean Reese, residential initiative project leader. That event attracted about 700 students and had an impact on the creation of the dormitory spaces in Mews and Court Halls.

Reese hopes to get similar student participation in the planning for West Campus.

“We can modify the size or configuration of rooms. Those are all things we want to get input about,” Reese said.

“This is kind of a reality check,” she added.

According to Reese, student involvement in the project has already been key in making decisions about living spaces through various committees and a focus group made up of about 50 students.

“The surveys we have done have told us that single rooms and suites are their primary interest,” said Reese.

Approximately 75 percent of the five new residential houses will have a suite layout, with the rest of the area consisting of single rooms. Every house will also have its own dining hall, library, music practice room, mailroom, and live-in professors or faculty members. Around 350 students will live in each hall. The Noyes Community Center will be demolished and then rebuilt as a recreational area, with two basketball courts and a fitness center.

“The concept on West is that faculty will be much more involved, but in an informal way,” said Reese.

Students have expressed their concern that professors and graduate students, who will also live in each house as advisors and program coordinators, will foster a more academic atmosphere and may intimidate students who would rather interact with the more traditional residential assistants.

However, “we have recommended that each house have three peer advisors,” Reese said, proposing that there will be several options for students who are more comfortable relating to other students their own age.

Also, because each hall will house its own dining facility, there has been concern that there will be less interaction between the entire student population on West Campus than there would be if there was only one larger dining hall.

Richard Anderson, an official from Cornell Dining who viewed the display, saw it differently.

“It is going to give the people who live in each house and the house council an opportunity to get to know their chefs and interact with them,” said Anderson.

Another concern has been the expected nuisance of construction on West Campus interfering with students who will be living there during that time.

“It sounds really cool, but it is too bad that we have to endure all of the construction,” said Katrina Potzel ’04 while surveying the display.

The houses, which will each be named after a prominent deceased Cornell faculty members, have also drawn attention from fraternities and sororities who will be competing with the newer facilities for students in their living quarters.

“We are not increasing the number of beds on West Campus, our goal is only to provide a different option, not to attract students who would otherwise live off campus,” said Reese. A certain amount of beds will be maintained during the construction while the older class halls are gradually demolished as the new houses are built.

Several upperclassmen that walked through the sample layout agreed that the new residences will not attract more students.

“As an upperclassman, I wouldn’t want to live here. You can get a bigger room in Collegetown, and probably for a cheaper price,” said Leon Eidelman ’02, another student visiting the imitation suite.

Reese hopes to get such input, and more specific suggestions and opinions about the plans over the next two days.

“These will be new and very nice facilities,” said Reese. “We are really hoping for students to come and let us know what they think.”

Archived article by Mackenzie Damon