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The Dartmouth
February 22, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Students indifferent

While the current plans for the new Berry Library have some members of the faculty up in arms, students seem relatively unaware of the changes in store.

Only a small handful of the students contacted by The Dartmouth were familiar with the plans for the new library, in marked contrast to the faculty, all of whom seem to feel strongly about Berry one way or the other.

Construction on the multi-million dollar extension to Baker Library is scheduled to begin in the spring.

Students had a wide range of reactions to the Berry plans -- from "strange" and "ugly" to "attractive" -- but the vast majority of reactions were ones of indifference.

Louisa Serene '00, one of the few students who had an opinion on the library controversy, said she took a course in Robert Venturi's architecture last year, and she felt that "the overall effect of [Berry Library] would be good."

Venturi is the chief architect of Berry, and his plans have been attacked by many faculty members -- including a majority of the Design Review Committee -- for being out of touch with the culture of the campus.

Ian Wijaya '99 sided with the opponents of the project after seeing the current plans, saying "Dartmouth is about cultivating intellectual diversity." Wijaya argued that the building's mill-like design runs contrary to this philosophy.

According to Andrea Korber '98, the most important factor in the Berry designs should be whether the new library will be useful to the student body.

"It's wrong to just divide up the campus and say, 'Oh this is the pretty part and this is the ugly part.' The opposition is purely from the facade point of view. The facade is just a shell. If students can use it, I don't see why everything needs to be redesigned."

However, few students were as articulate or opinionated as Wijaya and Korber. Most expressed ambivalence about the project, or said they felt powerless to act against it.

Most faculty members, on the other hand, are aware, if not opinionated, about the issue. Although many professed not to have a strong objection to the new library, all were acquainted with the complaints made by Art History Professor Joy Kenseth regarding the plans for the structure.

History Professor Walter Simons, whose ambivalence echoed that of many students, said he was "not terribly enthusiastic about the building," but went on to say it would be a "waste" for the College to postpone the building indefinitely because of the controversy surrounding it.