Tori DiPasquale

Contributing Writer


“Surely we can do better.” A statement given during a Sept. 7 interview with President McCall echoes the voices of students across campus. The state of the buildings, both academic and residential, has been an ongoing point of contention for the College for years. Now, with a new president, it seems things are moving to change.

McGaw Chapel was recently made unavailable to students and faculty. No official statement or explanation was released by the College, but in the Sept. 7 meeting, President McCall referenced problems with water leakage and other structural issues with the building. She stated that “non-invasive studies” of the space were completed in the spring of last year to decide if the building was safe to use. The results of this testing were not disclosed, but the campus can expect McGaw to be unavailable for the rest of the semester, at least.                                                                   

The president made a conclusive statement when asked about the future of the chapel: “Either we do significant repair or it needs to be torn down, there’s not a lot of space in between.” McGaw has been mired in controversy since its construction in 1971 and continues to be a divisive building on campus. McCall is extremely aware of its past, citing a planned renovation in 1986 and possible demolition in 1995, but made clear she is considering all sides of the matter.

“I care a lot about architectural history. I also like to see people in healthy buildings,” said McCall. There was a vote done by the Strategic Planning and Priorities Advisory Committee to recommend the building be torn down last year. However, whether that advice will be followed remains to be seen. President McCall stated that before any action is taken a “very careful consideration of the building, its value, its function and the problems it has,” must be observed. 

Along with the health of academic buildings, the school seems determined to begin improvements on residential life. “I believe in students living in good looking and highly functioning spaces,” stated McCall. On Aug. 30, first-year residents of Douglass Hall received an email from Director of Residence Life Jonathon Reynolds giving students the option to move to a different residence hall.

This sudden change came at the request of President McCall to begin renovating the space. The email, although currently presenting the move as a choice for the students, also stated that they will be working to clear out the building. When discussing having the option to move out of Douglass into Born, the President said, “I would want to move to Born!”

President McCall and Reynolds later made clear that Douglass will be emptied before mid-October. “Students in Douglass within the next week are going to receive special communications that will end with their moving out of the residence hall in the next month where they will have equal or better housing so we can do substantial work,” said President McCall. 

Students will be relocated to a number of different housing options including Bornheutter, Wagner, Compton, Kenarden, Luce, Holden, Armington, Stevenson and Gault Schoolhouse among others. The office of residential life is also preparing two homes for displaced students to live in, like Pearl House and Bean House, which were offline but will be available to upperclassmen currently living in Douglass.

In a Sept. 8 meeting, Reynolds reinforced the College’s priority to maintain the separation of first-year students and continuing students, saying, “First-year buildings are first-year buildings, and what we don’t want to do is have a lot of intermingling where a first-year student is living with students who are possibly 21, 22 years old.” He continued, “That creates a weird dynamic for them,” However, when asked if that may have to happen given how many open rooms are available, Reynolds said, “It’s possible because we just don’t have the full space, but I think based on our initial planning all the first-year students would go into… Compton, Born, Andrews, Wagner.”

In terms of inconveniencing the moving students, President McCall made clear that the school would try to make it as smooth a transition as possible. “I realize it is inconvenient to move in the middle of the year,” President McCall said, “we are going to hire a company to help students move.” In addition to this, students will be able to choose when they make the transition.

Those who were meant to live in Douglass this year will also get priority housing next year. “There’s a disruption… we recognize you’re being told that the space that you’ve been provided or the space that you’ve selected is now no longer yours and you have to move,” Reynolds said. “If you are a first-year student and you were required to move out of Douglass you would get a higher priority number within your class year… same for the students who are going to be juniors and seniors,”

Douglass was chosen as the start for new renovations due to its smaller number of residents, with only 62 students currently remaining in the building. “We had spaces in equal or better spaces,” said President McCall. Douglass is also the easiest dorm to begin doing renovations on as it was already next in line to be renovated after Andrews, and preparations to install air conditioning were already underway.

The project stopped due to COVID-19 related issues, but President McCall believes it is time to continue what was already started. “What Douglass is allowing us to do is get back to that wonderful cycle we were in that seemed to just grind to a halt during COVID.” Brush, Stevenson and Andrews were the last residence halls to be modernized. “We need to get back on track.”

Along with the major renovations planned for Douglass, President McCall shut down Weber House at the start of the semester. “It did not meet my standards for how we should be housing our students,” she stated. There was no indication of when it may be reopened, if at all. The president continued, bringing up the future possibility of the school demolishing all the homes on campus. She described a “master plan” for the school which involved the demolition of “all the little houses” as she said. “If we keep the houses we’ll need to invest in them,” she explained. Similarly to McGaw, major decisions will have to take place to secure the future of these buildings.

Students and community members should begin seeing some surface-level improvements to more housing. “I’ve asked facilities what we can do cosmetically to make it a more agreeable experience in some of the residence halls,” President McCall stated. This could include new furniture, new paint jobs for the houses and other pieces of beautification. “Can we make it more pleasant before we make it more modern?” 

When asked about future major renovations, President McCall indicated a desire to finish the process of modernizing every dorm that the school had started. “Once we jumpstart the process again, a first-year student will see really visible changes over the next few years.” 

The College community received an official statement of the renovation planning for Douglass on Tue. Sept. 12 from President McCall. At the time of publication, no official statement has been released to the general public about McGaw Chapel.