Trustees Consider Renovating Freshman Quad
By by MIKE REED, Contributing Writer
The College is considering the possibility of dramatic renovations on the freshman quad as well as major changes to the internal structure of the houses.

Amherst is nearing completion of the first of three phases in its residential housing evaluation, which seeks to examine the present dorm situation, compare it with peer institutions, and develop a plan for future changes.

Before creating any master plan for residential housing, the College will need to examine each dormitory carefully and decide on an appropriate course of action: leave the structure as is, renovate it or build a new one in its place. "Sometimes it's more cost-effective not to throw on a coat of paint," said Lieber.

Gerety described Amherst's housing situation as an issue quickly escalating in importance. "It's a growing concern in my view, especially when seen in relation to the select colleges and universities with whom we compete."

Phase one, the "Analysis/Assessment Phase," seeks to examine bricks and mortar, in addition to common spaces on campus. The Buildings and Grounds Committee, along with the trustees, will meet tomorrow to review their progress and hear preliminary recommendations from Sasaki Associates, an architecture consulting firm experienced in college residential life master planning.

"Recommendations from the architects will be crucial to all of us-trustees, students, faculty, staff, parents-as we deliberate over the year," said President Tom Gerety.

As part of the "Analysis/Assessment Phase," Amherst representatives traveled this summer to colleges and universities that have made recent housing changes including Middlebury and Williams Colleges and Brown, Harvard and Yale Universities.

Also, engineers came to the College to examine the structural integrity of its dormitories. The findings of each group will be discussed with Sasaki Associates' principal, Allan Resnick, in next week's meeting.

Gerety said that the architects "know other campuses" and they are working on a plan that identifies what "students in this era are expecting and demanding."

Gerety said he sees the need for one or more dorms "for freshman purposes and other purposes."

"There's some sense that we stand pretty decently in terms of upperclass housing, but not so well in terms of freshman and sophomore housing," said Dean of Students Ben Lieber.

Lieber cited overcrowding, narrow hallways and the absence of social space as residential problems facing students. Converting Appleton into a dormitory helped the overcrowding problem, Lieber said, but "there are still triples that should be doubles."

But administrators are also considering the goal of housing all freshmen on the current freshman quad. This may entail reconstructing James and Stearns Halls or renovating Williston Hall as a dormitory.

Gerety speculated that Williston, in its current size, might be too small to house enough freshmen.

Phases two and three of the College's housing evaluation, "Strategies and Development of Designs," are scheduled to be completed in less than a year.

Director of Facilities Planning and Management Jim Brassord maintained that freshman housing would remain centered around the freshman quad but left open the question of what to do with its buildings.

Any renovation or new building will need to conform to both current building codes and the Americans With Disabilities Act, which requires that elevators and handicapped access ramps be built in.

A grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is helping the College pay for the development of its housing evaluation.

Of the $105,000 given by the foundation, $50,000 will be used towards a dormitory master planning design consultant, $10,000 will create a paid position for a residential life programming consultant, $30,000 will go to programming in freshman dormitories, including speakers invited to campus, $5,000 will go towards inviting speakers to campus to discuss general residential life issues and the remaining $10,000 will pay for travel expenses for the dormitory master planning committee to visit other colleges and universities, according to Lieber.

According to Gerety, the energy and expense being devoted to housing questions are necessary. "We need to review all of our residential offerings. This is not just a question of architecture or upkeep," he said. "Student life on campus is shaped in important ways by residential choices. The Board and I are particularly emphatic in saying that we do not want to make a large investment in such an important aspect of the College without asking fundamental questions about the way it all works."

Issue 02, Submitted 2000-09-13 16:12:47