Returning to campus after a long summer, students were shocked by the changes awaiting them in two community spaces, The Pub and the Library. For those of you not familiar with the previous spaces, here is a brief picture:
Where the Pub now houses an array of drinks and pre-made food, we enjoyed a small room of booths that were constantly teeming with students eating French fries and typing on their laptops. Working amidst a backdrop of lightened wood and firelight colors is now an experience of the past, as the clean-edged and new cool blue scheme erases all traces of grease stains and scuffed floors from the Pub’s inevitable Friday midnight rush.
A similar spatial overhaul was initiated in the library, resulting in the new Copyright Café. Where students once sifted through bookshelves, a large section of the library has been walled off to create a café/study space. Lined with couches and booths, students now sit comfortably at tables sipping coffee and taking copious notes.
Both the aesthetic and functionality of these spaces have drastically evolved, and we have Kyle Wilkie’s hard work to thank. Wilkie, the Assistant Vice President for Campus Operations and Planning, was involved in both of these projects from their conception. In an interview with him, Wilkie answers questions about the improvements to the Sarah Lawrence campus with an insider perspective.
The Phoenix: To start off with, when did the planning for these improvements start? Many students were very surprised by the changes. What were the reasons for doing so? Was it in response to complaints?
Kyle Wilkie: Planning for these renovations began about two years ago. The previous facility at the Pub did not provide enough surface area for the variety of options that the SLC Community has been asking for. Additionally, a lack of refrigeration and freezer space led to frequent product outages. We used feedback from the Auxiliary Services Sub-Committee, the Committee on Student Life, the Committee on Library Planning, the annual Food Services survey, and lots of information that was communicated from the community to create a space that is much more conducive.
Phoenix: In the “best case” scenario, what will these improvements mean for the SLC community?
Wilkie: My hope is that these projects have a positive, lasting impact on student life at the College as well as the experience that we deliver to faculty, staff, and visitors. The completion of the Pub allows us to offer a new variety of options in an enhanced atmosphere. I have heard many pieces of positive feedback that signal just how well received the projects are.
Phoenix: In what way have these communities changed? How does the administration want these spaces to be used differently by the students?
Wilkie: The Library is positively impacted by the addition of the Copyright Café because it adds an amenity that previously did not exist. The Café gives a place to eat (which is not permitted in other areas of the Library) and take a break from studying. In particular, I know students will be excited to have access to the Copyright Café when the Library opens 24/7 during the last several weeks of the semester.
Many students are, in fact, very pleased by these new additions to campus spaces, and look forward to utilizing them much in the way Wilkie hopes. Wyatt Welles ’18 and Muntaha Mohamed ’18 were chatting in the Copyright Café and shared their opinions on the space as first years, viewing these changes with fresh eyes. Welles stated, “The café is much better than the one in Heimbold. It’s location is much more central to the campus and is secluded from the chaos of the building. Living in Hill House means you have a lot of awkward time in between classes when you can’t return to your dorm, and the Copyright Café seems like a good place to hang out.” Mohamed agrees, enthusiastically saying, “The only good coffee on campus is here!”
Many first years on campus are comparing these changes not to the old spaces of the Pub and the library, but to other dining facilities around campus. Julia Kaplan ’18 very matter-of-factly said, “It’s all the same for me, I don’t have a basis for comparison. I like [the Pub] better than Bates, I hate Bates.” This positive attitude continues with Shelby Krog ’17, as she eats her food outside on the Pub terrace. “The Pub smells better than last year! I like that there is new options, healthier options, but I miss the booths! [in the Pub].”
Those who have lived on campus previously are less convinced about all of the merits of these additions. Living on a small campus, space is limited and needs to be utilized to the fullest. While these changes in the Pub and the library have brought wonderful spaces to the student body, it is only logical that they have taken away room for other important areas.
Jay Politano ’17 voices his concerns on Facebook, writing, “I miss the cozy quiet section in the library. Also, it's always cramped during conference week, so now there's going to be even less seating available. I can see seating becoming a problem at the Pub now too, especially once it's too cold to sit outside.” With books being replaced in the library with eating spaces, students have become skeptical about the necessity of taking away important learning spaces. Asmahan Malow ’16 was on Student Senate last year when the idea of the Copyright Café was introduced to the student body. “I was originally worried about the cramping of study spaces in the library, but it seems to be a nice area and a good study space.”
It seems that time will tell how successful the improved Pub and the Copyright Café will be in the Sarah Lawrence Community.
by Caely McHale '17
Photos in this story provided by the author.