During a Student Government Association meeting this week, SGA President Daniel Cardona announced on behalf of Rowan University President Ali Houshmand, that a host of expansion projects are currently in planning phases. The projects include the demolition of Linden Hall, renovations to several older residence halls, and additions to the Chamberlain Student Center.
The ideas are good, but need to chart a grander course en route to improving the facilities.
The Student Center additions in particular mark a moment of rare introspection for the university, which seems to be acknowledging the fact that its growing student body is beginning to push the limits of campus amenities which were designed with a much smaller population in mind. The Student Center project is poised to add a sky bridge connection between the Student Center and the Campbell Library and add a fourth floor which would host a new, larger ballroom.
Cardona described the project as an increasing necessity, a proposition with which we would agree. During the meeting he said, “it is something that Rowan University needs. Our student center is getting a little dated so it needs a little expansion.”
A little expansion is right.
The Student Center was originally opened in 1974, and currently houses various club offices, a mailroom, multiple food spots, a game room and the Enyon Ballroom on the third floor. The ballroom seats 450 people at capacity, as does “The Pit” on the second floor—a fraction of the approximately 13,000 students which attend the university. Certainly the school is not required to find venues capable of seating the entirety of a student body, but it’s nice to see President Houshmand recognize that the volume of seats in campus venues needs to grow with the school’s population. In fact, The Whit received an unpublished message from a reader just two weeks ago complaining that attendance was over capacity at Doris Kearns Goodwin’s talk in February, an event hosted in the Enyon Ballroom.
But seating is far from the Student Center’s only current problem. The “food court,” which originally served as a grab-and-go option for students in between classes, has developed into another time-consuming room of lines that are insurmountable in the 15 minutes separating periods. Spaces which are available to clubs and organizations for reservation through the campus’ 95Live service require planning months in advance before they are reserved by others. And at peak hours, the first-floor mailroom line stretches into tables hosting sorority bake-sales, which makes life difficult for those selling cookies as well as those picking up packages.
Outside of the ballroom, there are a lot of ways the Student Center has reached its capacity. Navigation is difficult during times of high traffic, and a once relaxing center of campus has morphed into a center-city style hub.
The transition from relaxed to frantic hasn’t been overnight, nor has it necessarily been a bad thing. But the building can no longer house the number of students who need and use it everyday. A new ballroom will start to solve that problem, but it’s only a piece of the puzzle. With the addition of a fourth floor, hopefully the Student Center sees a full renovation, shifting resources to new locations and expanding others in their vacated places. A sky bridge is a nice addition that will help to connect the building and create an appealing aesthetic for the campus’ center, but what the Student Center really needs is more room for the services it already offers.