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The Dartmouth
February 20, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Provost rejects N. Fairbanks plans

Proposals for renovations to North Fairbanks Hall, which include making the basement into an area for student activities, have been declined by the provost's office due to pressures to cut the College budget.

Last spring, the administration heard requests from the Collis Center to turn the basement into a new dance club or other social space for students. According to College Provost Barry Scherr, the large studio space in the basement is "not in great shape," and he concluded renovation was not cost-effective.

"We're trying not to put in anything long term. Someday North Fairbanks will be taken down anyway," said Scherr.

During Summer Term, Scherr met with students to discuss possible uses of the space. In the end, he said, the budget was the issue -- renovating the space would cost "hundreds of thousands of dollars."

"It is disappointing," Student Assembly member Mike Perry '03 said. "It leaves me worried because I don't see a larger commitment from the College to really seeking out and improving student social space on campus."

Jack Wilson of the Facilities Planning Office said that because the building is not handicapped-accessible and does not have convenient lavatories, to "make it a public or student venue is a significant investment." His office, which gathers the proposals from various groups and ultimately makes recommendations to the provost, concluded the College should "put resources elsewhere."

The basement area, previously used by Instructional Services, is now shared between the College photographer and the department of film and television studies.

According to Wilson, the space has been used for interviews in film and television production and will continue to be used for the same purposes as before. There will be no improvements to the basement, which Scherr described as "not very elegant."

Historically, the basement of North Fairbanks, which is located behind Massachusets Row, was the movie theater on campus, and still has a projection booth. The space is a large studio with high ceilings.

According to Wilson, Dean of the College James Larimore has negotiated with the provost on improving student space on campus, and decided to "focus on Collis."

But Collis Director Joe Cassidy still sees a "deficiency" in student space, citing a need for larger social spaces on campus.

Cassidy said "Even though [Collis] Commonground is booked solid at night ... I still get requests, but it is too full, there is no availability."

While "reservations increase each term" to use Fuel, the newly-renovated dance club in Collis, Cassidy said it is better for "smaller, more intimate parties," as compared with the better-publicized and more highly attended student events in Collis Commonground. According to Cassidy, this smaller atmosphere may explain the perception of Fuel's infrequent use since often the organizations that use it only inform their own members.

Apart from the basement studio area, North Fairbanks also has vacancies on the first floor, where Wilson said eight or nine offices are not currently in use. These offices will be used as "swing space" when other renovations around campus push faculty and administrators out of their offices.

When asked when the first-floor offices will be occupied, Wilson replied, "maybe Winter term."