April 7, 2011

Potters Protest Closure of Studio

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Ithaca residents and Cornell students, faculty and staff crowded into the Willard Straight Hall Student Union Board meeting on Wednesday to protest the board’s decision to close the Straight’s ceramics studio at the end of this semester.

President of the Cornell Ceramics Club Megan Kruer grad presented the board with a petition, signed by more than 700 people, opposing the decision to close the ceramics studio.

“Tell me I’m not learning something different at the pottery studio than the regular Cornell education would provide,” said Nathaniel Treffeisen ’12, who said he frequently uses the studio.

Sarah Iams grad criticized the SUB for a “complete lack of process,” citing the absence of a formal announcement in its decision to close the studio.

David Bell, the program coordinator of the board, did not answer any questions from students at the meeting. He stated that the board meeting was established as a forum for the board to listen to people’s concerns — not to respond to them.

“We have not prepared anything for discussion,” Bell said.

Advocates for the pottery studio emphasized its importance in the context of the new mental health initiatives on campus.

Treffeisen contextualized his comments by pointing out that, earlier that day, administrators met in the Straight to discuss new ways to promote mental health on campus.

He referred to the petition as evidence of the studio’s importance to the Cornell community.

“When you have 700 people calling out to you on how pottery helps with their stress, how can you still vote to turn [the studio] down?” Treffeisen said.

Alessia McCobb ’14 addressed the board and echoed Treffeisen’s statement.

“I find that coming to the studio is the best way to relieve my stress, and that’s really important to me because Cornell can be such a difficult environment,” McCobb said.

Iams, who said she found comfort in the studio, added it remains “one of the only places to go on campus on a Friday night besides a bar.”

Michael Motley ’12, the executive director of the SUB, told The Sun last week that given low undergraduate attendance, the board could not justify the use of space by the ceramics studio when other clubs and student groups were competing for space on campus.

“The need for space for use by undergrads is so high [that] it’s not feasible to devote so much space to [the pottery studio],” he said.

Motley said the Straight was constructed for the benefit of undergraduate students, and the pottery studio is more popular among graduate students and the Ithaca community.

Jackie Bae ’13 disputed this claim. She said that, despite appearances, many architecture and art undergraduate students use the studio for academic purposes.

“There is a huge number of people who use the studio for projects and academics but don’t necessarily have their name on any type of list,” Bae said.

Kruer acknowledged that the studio could draw more people but said it should continue.

“Rather than shutting down the studio, we need to let people know that such an amazing facility exists,” she said.

Original Author: Shane Dunau