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New residence hall needs Brandeis flair

By Andrew Elmers

Section: Opinions

February 26, 2016

The Brandeis administration has always looked for feedback from students in their effort to appear transparent. Whether it’s a town hall meeting or lunch with President Lynch or a survey sent out about redesigns to the website, there have been multiple opportunities for the greater community to make their voices heard. Hopefully this policy doesn’t change with the eventual construction of a new residence hall where the Castle now stands, and the student body will get a chance to offer input on the design for the building.

Other than incoming first-years, no students are automatically assigned to a specific residence hall or room. While the housing lottery process right now is flawed, and the proposals for change DCL presented this past month aren’t ideal either, students still have a choice as to where to live. Therefore they should also have a choice in how their residence halls will look. Even if it is on a matter as simple as the color of the walls, the student body will appreciate the building much more if they feel that they had a part in its construction.

I wasn’t here the last time a completely new residence hall was constructed (the Ridgewood Quad was completed in January 2009), so I don’t know if students who attended during Bush 43’s administration had any say in Ridgewood’s design. Either way, the new residence hall should certainly consider student input during its construction. Most likely the university has already contracted an architectural firm to design the building, and if the administration wants to appear transparent, the community would eventually see these plans.

The aesthetics of the design should be opened for discussion. Things like exterior and interior colors should be chosen by current students, some of whom might wind up living in the building once it’s completed. Probably the most important part of the design is the actual style of living arrangements the residence hall will offer. Will it consist of mostly single and double rooms—similar to the Castle—or will there be mostly suites? This decision might have been made already, but if it hasn’t, then the student body should play a large part in the final decision. Other design features, such as the common areas that will be in the building and the outdoor landscaping, should also get feedback from students.

According to the Castle project website, construction on the new residence halls won’t begin until June 2017, roughly 15 months from now. That leaves plenty of time for surveys to be formulated and advisory groups to meet to determine what the finished building will actually look like. There haven’t been any updates posted since Interim President Lynch sent the letter to the community announcing the future of the Castle, so hopefully the administration is taking this time to plan out the best ways to incorporate students’ voices in the final product. Even if it includes letting art students paint murals or hang their work in the halls, having some indication that students were part of the process would be ideal.

Opening up the conversation to students will increase the sense of community the building will create. The future residents of the hall will feel a greater responsibility to keep the building clean and fresh. And while a large majority of the current undergraduate population will never have the opportunity to live in this new residence hall, it would still be nice to come back and visit campus in the future, knowing you had a say in the construction of an entire building. Our campus is losing the majority of the Castle, the most iconic building on campus by far. We need something to replace the symbol it holds for the school, and getting students involved in the design of it would be a good first step to creating a memorable building.

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