February 16, 2010

Big Red Barn May See Upgrades

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Although the University, which owns the building, has yet to approve or reject the project, the group of students and employees hopes to raise money through fundraising and alumni and graduate student donations. Current plans would build on the Barn’s patio and barbecue pit, but this could change after input from the graduate community.

“The final proposal should really come from grad students and staff who use the Barn and know what they really want,” Michiei Sho, assistant manager of operations at the Big Red Barn, said.

Current plans would create more space, which could be partitioned into two or three smaller rooms when needed. If the University approves the rejuvenation effort, the group wants architecture and engineering students to submit blueprints for the renovation. The graduate community, staff and administrators would then vote on the best plan. Regardless, the group hopes to retain the Barn’s existing atmosphere.

“Graduate and professional students see the Big Red Barn as their student center and place to go to,” said Brian Forster, vice president for operations of GPSA. “The Barn is need of repair and possible expansion in order to better accommodate graduate and professional students.”

The building currently holds a maximum of 165 people. But with more than 6,700 graduate and professional students on campus, students and staff alike feel there is room for growth.

“We’ve had to turn away people away several times at our TGIF — Tell Grads It’s Friday — events, and there are often people waiting at the door to get in,” Sho said.

The building’s central location makes it popular for socializing and eating between classes. As a result, the Barn hosted more than 320 events during the last school year — often accommodating two or three in one day. This prompted graduate students and staff to begin discussing expansion several years ago when the GSPA formed the Graduate Community Initiative in 2006.

Concerns about the building’s structural safety have also bolstered support for renovation. The Barn temporarily closed several years ago for reroofing and may have to close within the next several years for structural and electrical inspections and potential repairs, said Brenda Wickes, assistant dean for graduate student life. The group of students and employees pushing for renovations would also like to replace the heating system and purchase new lounge furniture.

Remodeling outlined in the proposal, which the GPSA recently sent to Vice President of Student and Academic Services Susan Murphy ’73 and Cornell Facilities Management, would also be affordable and environmentally friendly. Some GPSA members worried that raising funds during the current recession would be too difficult. Forster, however, remains optimistic.

“The Barn is a special place for a lot of alumni, so hopefully they give back,” he said. “If we all come together and contribute, this can come through.”

Forster said Kris Corda, manager of the Big Red Barn, and Wickes are both behind the proposal.

Many graduate students also support rejuvenating the Barn.

“I’m not sure I agree with getting rid of the patio and green space,” Peter Kaczynski grad said. “But I’m definitely for improving the place.”

The GPSA unanimously passed the resolution supporting the proposal and has pledged to facilitate talks between the graduate and professional community and University. Some representatives mentioned trying to appropriate funds for the renovation at Monday’s meeting. The main goal of the students and staff who drafted the proposal, however, is to get the process moving and begin improving the Barn as soon as possible.

“We really want to come back in five or 10 years and see that we made it better,” Sho said.

Original Author: Dan Robbins