Swing-Space Proposal Sparks Backlash from Students
The Center for Integrated Sciences (CIS) building has many excited for the new classrooms, study spaces, and promise of being the most LEEDS certified structure on campus. With it, however, comes an unexpected cost: a swing-space building (SSB) that will be constructed to accommodate students and classes while renovations take place. The SSB — which will be placed in the North Woods — is said to not have sustainable features, sparking backlash from students.
Vice President for finance and administration, Donna Ng proposed the single story, pre-fabricated, 32,000 square foot structure. The building will take up a substantial amount of the 150 acres of unprotected woods to the right of Falstaff’s that had been outlined by Skidmore as potential land. The SSB will last a maximum of thirty to forty years.
In response, students protested the plan on Monday Mar. 25. Sociology professor Rik Scarce was among those who attended and spoke at the event.
“The limitations of a pre-fab building are such that little can be done to make is sustainable. The HVAC system will not allow for geothermal and the roof won’t support a ‘green’ roof.” While Scarce believes in the necessity of the building, he argued that the North Woods “is not the right place for it.” He asked, “what are the North Woods going to look like in fifteen to twenty years?”
He is not alone in questioning this. Over 65 students and staff members gathered for the protest, with students holding a “More transparency. More sustainability” sign as they walked to the proposed building location.
“People are very concerned,” said Linnea Harris ’19, who works at the Sustainability Office. “There hasn’t been a ton of transparency in this process and I think this attests to how much students care about projects being sustainable and how it’s not just about image but it’s also about following through on these really important practices.”
Finley Tevlin ’19, who also works in the sustainability office, explained “we wouldn’t just be protesting because we were upset. I’ve seen enough trees get taken down on campus; I’m here for the trees.”
At the Senate Open Forum on Mar. 26, students were able to speak with both Ng and Dean Cerri Banks in person. Banks stressed that the college does care about sustainability and is still open to considering suggestions, and that communication needs to improve in the future. However, because of the schools current financial stress with CIS, it cannot afford a second floor without raising tuition or making cuts into programs like financial aid.
“The narrative that we don’t care about sustainability is not right,” explained Dean Banks. “We just have to make the best decision for the institution. It’s a priority that we fully support. But I wanted to be clear with the students that I couldn’t, in good conscience, say we spent millions of dollars to make this building sustainable for what we’re trying to do.”
The SGA sustainability commission (SuCo) later proposed a motion for the senate to oppose the SSB’s current plan. However, the senate voted against it.
“Everyone understood where [the motion] was coming from and supported the idea of sustainability, but the problem is we don’t have an unlimited budget,” explained SGA President Max Fleischman ’19. “Those funds have to come from somewhere else. And the fact of the matter is that’s going to hurt lower income students more than it would higher income students.”
The SuCo and other students will continue to fight for more environmentally sustainable and friendly measures in the future. Fleischman advised students to have clear plans, reach out to donors, and even run for office. Next week will see another open dialogue with the State of the Students Address, which will have Banks, Ng, and Glotzbach present.