May 3, 2006

Home Again?

Print More

Whether you currently use the Straight as a place to eat, buy tickets for events or get out of the cold on your way down the slope, you will soon see some changes coming to this historic building. Kent Hubbell ’69, dean of students, is working on a number of projects, including a new computer lab with digital publishing technology, meant to revitalize the Straight and bring together several student groups on campus.

The biggest project on the horizon is a new computer lab that will have special software for students involved in fine, applied and performing arts. The lab will be staffed by Cornell Information Technologies but will be tailored to members of the Cornell community that are interested in creating digital media including visualization, animation, graphics, video, music and desktop publishing.

One of the primary purposes of the lab will be to serve as a home for Studpubs, the umbrella organization for student publications on campus. The project of creating the computer lab was first developed almost three years ago when Samantha Henig ’06, a member of the executive board of Studpubs, one of the editors-in-chief of Kitsch magazine and Sun staff writer, approached Hubbell about finding a place where students could do layout for their publications.

The initial plan was to have a computer lab replace the dark room; in the meantime, two computers were placed on the second floor of the Straight for the use of student publications. This change did not satisfy Henig’s dream of creating a community among the publications, however; she hopes the new lab will fulfill this purpose.

“Dean Hubbell really wants us to feel like it could be our central office and home. … He’s amazingly supportive, and he is going to make this happen,” Henig said.

The lab will replace the black and white photo darkroom, which could no longer support itself, according to Hubbell. Hubbell hopes that the new computer lab will open this fall.

He also plans to renovate the second floor and bring together all the staff and students associated with student support groups including Empathy Assistance and Referral Services, the African, Latino, Asian, Native American Program Board, Haven and the Women’s Resource Center.

The goal is “to create a much more energetic interaction between everyone involved,” Hubbell said.

The Straight will also be getting wireless internet this summer.

The project to revitalize the Straight has already begun, with improvements over the last few years including renovating the ceramic studio and converting the game room into a performance and meeting space. Also the use of the browsing library has increased exponentially “just by opening up the doors,” said Catherine Holmes ’85, associate dean of students.

Hubbell said that while the Straight used to be the focal point for student activities when the University was smaller, it now faces competition from the community centers on North and West Campus.

The Straight was one of the first student unions in the country. According to Holmes, when the Straight was first built it served as a home for students that were not members of fraternities or sororities and as the place that students went to do things outside of the classroom.

“It’s a shame that we lost that,” Holmes said, adding that she would like to get back the sense that the Straight is the center of campus life.

In order to attract more people, Holmes talked about focusing on students living off campus and also about reaching out to new students. There will be a virtual tour of the building online and an open house for students during orientation.

“It would be really nice if it was a place where people wanted to go to hang out,” Henig said, adding that the new computer lab will be a good step towards making the building more lively.

“It’s all about trying to make the highest and best use of this wonderful building,” Hubbell said.

Archived article by Tamar Weinstock
Sun Staff Writer