Renovations to Evans Hall are already underway despite student concern about their effect on future housing options.
“We did some demolition in the old abandoned kitchen area and measured all the window openings over winter break,” said Steve Spehn, director of facilities.
The Board of Trustees approved the renovations at the end of fall term to bring the 85-year-old building up to date.
Still, many students around campus have expressed annoyance about the rumored effects of the plan on housing options. Since the number of beds in Evans will increase by 40 after the renovations, it has been suggested that the number of students allowed to participate in the Northfield Option will equally decrease by 40, from 100 to 60.
While reduced Northfield Option housing will quite likely become a reality in the future, Steve Wisener, director of residential life, says that students need not worry just yet.
“From my perspective, that’s not an even trade,” Wisener said. “My goal is that when we’re ready to reduce [Northfield Option housing], we are able to replace it with the type of housing students want to come back to.”
Wisener said that the Northfield Option housing capacity has already been decided for the 2012-2013 school year, and that it will remain at 100 students. However, he also said, “As a residential institution, it would be our preference if everyone lived on campus. Right now we’re many years from that ideal.”
Students step in
No matter the current housing situation, that future goal has students up in arms about their right to live off-campus.
“I think that off-campus housing is very important for upperclassmen, particularly seniors, because it really promotes independence before you have to face the real world,” said Katie Blansett, ’14, a resident of Parish house. “Also, from a financial standpoint, I know plenty of students who could really use the money they’d save from living in town rather than in campus housing and on the meal plan.”
Tommy Glickson, ’12, lives off campus and said his experience is “much better. You can have more freedom. You’re more responsible for every part of your life.”
On Monday, the CSA unanimously passed a resolution written by Glickson that acknowledges the importance of the Northfield Option and supports the maintenance or increase of the Northfield Option in the future.
“If [residential life] keeps talking about [decreasing the Northfield Option] and makes a plan, and then comes to the students, it will be too late,” he said. “The idea behind this is to beat them to the punch and show them students care about this issue.”
Glickson is currently in the process of creating a petition in the same vein as the resolution to demonstrate student support for Northfield Option housing. While he is not optimistic, Glickson hopes that it will make the administration more accountable to students if and when off-campus housing is pared down.
Future changes to off-campus housing will, in part, depend upon the results of the ongoing strategic planning initiative. The size of incoming freshman classes will also play a part in future housing discussions.
What happens in the fall?
During the period of renovation in fall 2012, the decreased number of beds on campus due to the temporary closure of Evans will not be balanced by an increase in off-campus housing options, as many students have hopefully proposed.
“Within the existing system, we can house everyone while Evans is offline,” Wisener said.
Students will alternatively be encouraged to participate in an extended number of study-abroad programs or be housed in old faculty housing. The Watson Hall corner rooms also may temporarily revert back to triples.
Though the plan’s implications for future housing may not sit well with many Carleton students, the administration has given copious reasons for the need to renovate Evans and to do so promptly.
At the College Council meeting on Oct. 10, President Steven Poskanzer said that Evans “is the last dorm on campus without a sprinkler system. It compares poorly with other dorms; the entryway format is not as healthy for social lives.”
Steve Spehn also implicated the lack of sprinklers, as well as the columns and hard-to-access entrances to the building, as a safety hazard.
Keeping ‘Evans charm’
The designs for the renovation were mostly decided last year and have already been approved, but there may still be a small margin for student input about the new Evans furniture.
“They will be retaining a lot of the original Evans charm, which I’m excited about,” said Travis Nordgaard ’13, a student representative on the renovation committee. “The way the engineers made it sound is that…it will keep the sense of the building intact.”
Spehn said that a sort of furniture fair would be a possibility for getting student feedback. The different furniture options would be set up for students to test out and rate, much like the way the new furniture for Sayles Hill and the Weitz Center was chosen.
Wisener said, however, that the furniture would not be very different from what is currently offered, though the beds may be lofted. He said that samples might be set up for students to look at, and conceptual drawings would be available.
“Our goal is, when we’re ready to open it, for it not to be a surprise,” he said. “I want [the students] to be excited about it.”
However, Nordgaard said, “After I mentioned [the lofted beds], some students expressed concern about not being able to rearrange furniture and crowding students in.”
Temporary Cave closure
In addition to the renovations to the residence portion of Evans Hall, The Cave will also receive various updates. The restrooms will be relocated and made larger and handicap accessible, the bar will be reconfigured, the floor will be repaired and a room will be added in the back for musicians to warm up before shows, among many other minor changes.
“A big improvement will be an air ventilation system,” Spehn said.
The Cave’s current lack of ventilation has been a consistent inconvenience at many crowded concerts and dances, as the space often becomes unbearably hot and humid.
“A ventilation system will make breathing in The Cave a lot more pleasurable,” said Charlie Nathan, ’14.
With The Cave necessarily closed during the renovation, the campus will be deprived of one of its main event venues for all of fall term. The Weitz Center has been discussed as an alternate space to host displaced events.
Students currently living in Evans need not worry about any disruptions in the building during the school year, since the main construction is scheduled to begin in June, right after the alumni reunion weekend. Evans will then be closed until the start of next winter term, January 2013, at which point it will open for students to move in.