April 9, 2012
by Sarah Ferris
Student leaders are lobbying for a quarter-million dollars by the end of this academic year to expand collaborative space and services for campus organizations in the Marvin Center.
The $260,000 project would renovate space on the fourth floor of the Marvin Center that will be vacated after the Center for Student Engagement moves to the fifth floor as early as next winter.
John Richardson and Dylan Pyne, leaders of the Student Association and Marvin Center Governing Board, respectively, met with a team from the Division of Operations over the past month to lay out costs and designs for the project. Richardson and Pyne said they will use their vetted-out proposal, finalized last week, to lobby top administrators to include the project in next year’s University budget, which will be set by the Board of Trustees in May.
The student leaders hope to restructure CSE office space to foster collaboration among the four student advocacy groups – the Student Association, Marvin Center Governing Board, Residence Hall Association and Class Council – that will be moving into the vacated space this fall.
“This will force the leaders to communicate and collaborate with each other. Never before have these groups been located together,” Pyne, a senior, said.
Richardson, a junior who will step out of the SA in May, was recently elected chair of the Marvin Center Governing Board for next year, and plans to continue lobbying on this issue in his new role.
The Marvin Center Governing Board is charged with assigning offices on the fourth floor to student organizations. Plans for the fifth floor, which will be renovated this summer to become a student services center, were created by the University.
Besides the CSE, the fifth floor will also house the GW Career Center, the Center for Civic Engagement and Public Service, the Office for Study Abroad and the Center for Undergraduate Fellowships and Research. Construction on the project – which will cost $2 million – began early this semester.
As the top student advocacy groups leave their offices scattered across the fourth floor, 10 additional student organizations were offered the empty slots – a climb from this year’s 67 groups with offices.
A total of 104 organizations applied for offices on the floor for next academic year.
GW Vets will receive its own office after past years of sharing with other groups, marking the first physical space devoted exclusively to a student veteran group. The organization, which represents about 900 student veterans, has campaigned for a private office over the past year, sending a formal letter to the University’s Dean of Students office this fall and again in March.
Students working alongside professional staff in the Office of Veteran Services currently operate out of two cubicles and an office in Colonial Central. Many members of GW Vets are trained to serve as peer counselors for other veterans, and the organization argued that the sessions require a private location.
Scott Disney, president of GW Vets, said having its own space will help the organization expand its services and campus ties.
“Having a private space for our organization to conduct business and interact with our students is the next key step in the development of the ever growing veteran community at GW. I am glad that it has finally happened,” Disney said in an e-mail.
Besides reorganizing the offices taking over the CSE space, Richardson and Pyne say renovations are needed to better fit each group’s needs. The pair also wants to knock down walls around some of the smaller offices in the center’s floor space to create a large meeting room and a computer lab and printing area for use by all students.
On the other side of the fourth floor, Richardson and Pyne also want to create a storage center that would allow organizations – including the more than 300 groups without offices – to lock up supplies or equipment.
“Our vision reflects what students want in this space,” Richardson said.
Though most of the organizations are taking a space cut – the SA will lose about 50 percent of its current space when it moves into the shared area – Pyne believes the renovations will strengthen ties between the four leading groups.
Both Richardson and Pyne acknowledge that larger renovations will be unlikely before next winter break at the earliest, but believe small steps can be taken throughout the year to see more immediate changes.
The $260,000 price tag, down from an original $1 million estimate, was finalized last week by the Division of Operations after several rounds of cuts for less essential upgrades like carpeting, repainting and extra storage units. More than half of the project’s cost estimate accounts for demolition and construction, in addition to other expenses, like furniture.
Director of the CSE Tim Miller said he didn’t want to predict whether the students’ plans to renovate the area would move forward.
“I’m not even going to guess,” Miller said. “Their ideas are very large.”