Renovations planned in Usdan Student Center

Renovations planned in Usdan Student Center

November 22, 2019

Usdan Student Center will be renovated to consolidate Chaplaincy and Hillel personnel and areas on the ground level and first floor respectively, according to blueprints obtained by The Brandeis Hoot. Robert Avalle Jr., vice president of the Department of Facilities Services, acknowledged that the work will be disruptive to the current occupants of the space being renovated and said that it will be necessary to relocate some of the offices. 

Avalle described the renovation as “[revising] some office layouts for better efficiency” and said that it would also include “some finish improvements in the areas of work.” He said that the Department of Facilities Services “will work with staff to develop and implement a schedule and [that] the temporary locations will be communicated with students.” Avalle said there is not yet a planned start date.

Rabbi Seth Winberg, the director of spiritual life, senior Jewish chaplain and executive director of Hillel, said that the goal of the renovation was to “provide better multi-purpose space for students and to make the space as welcoming and functional as possible.”

Dated Oct. 16, 2019, the summary further states that the Peace Room is not in the “scope of this concept” and will remain on the ground level. A description of the new ground floor also mentions that the Chaplaincy staff will be consolidated on the ground level, the Multifaith Lounge will be relocated to the ground floor and the two existing offices will each be divided to create a total of four offices. A description of the new first floor says that “an additional office is constructed in the Hillel administration area” in the space formerly occupied by the Multifaith Lounge. 

An old office will be combined with a storage area to form a larger storage area. The descriptions also mention that the plumbing in the area will need to be examined to determine where the sink in the Multifaith Lounge can go and that “under-stairway storage in the Student Lounge is pending review of building code.” The work will be carried out by a private contractor under the oversight of the Department of Facilities Services. 

The renovation was announced in an email to the student body from Provost Lisa Lynch on June 25, 2019. The email from Lynch, with the subject line “INFORMATIONAL: Update on the Director of Spiritual Life Search,” mentions the university’s intent to renovate the building “over the upcoming academic year” with the goal of “[enhancing] spiritual life and the Hillel experience by expanding the multipurpose space available to students and making it as welcoming as possible.” Lynch wrote that this was in service of the broader goal of “[developing] a center that helps young adults explore their spirituality in a safe space and find their place in the world.”

The Hoot reached out to Center for Spiritual Life Office Coordinator Diane Lauber, Brandeis Hillel President Lindsay Biebelberg ’21, and Senior Project Manager of Design and Construction James McCormack, but none of them responded. The Hoot heard back from Associate Director of Operations and Maintenance Ryan Donahue, who referred The Hoot to Associate Director of Design and Construction Michael McGarry. McGarry did not provide a statement of his own, but referred The Hoot to the answers given by Avalle.

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