Moraff ’14: Andrews Commons: a colossal waste

Opinions Columnist
Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Imagine that the so-called “Andrews Commons” weren’t hideously overpriced. Imagine that the fluorescent aesthetic weren’t a weird pseudo-modernist misfire and imagine that the tables weren’t awkward and weird. Imagine if the space truly conveyed “a streamlined ambiance of maximum efficiency,” as The Herald’s review put it in a bizarre parody of administrative propaganda.

It would still be an absurd project that reveals the depths of Brown’s administrative failures, because it is and always has been a pointless waste of money that could have been better spent on almost anything else.

In 2007, the Gate reopened after extensive renovations. The kitchen had been redesigned — presumably at great expense — and seating added. In 2011, the Gate reopened, again, after extensive renovations to the initial extensive renovations. Apparently, even these renovations weren’t extensive enough for our decision-makers, who decided to simply blow the whole thing up so no one could renovate it ever again.

So now we have a new “study space,” along with an abandoned void where the Gate used to be. We have one of the soda machines you’d see at a Wendy’s. Our pizza is slightly more artisanal than before. All this for a few measly million dollars. But God forbid we ever go need-blind. We must, after all, think of the budget.

When the administration claims we simply have to increase tuition almost 4 percent, it should be laughed out of the room. It’s lost the right to be taken seriously. It’s spent seven years flailing around, throwing millions of dollars at projects cancelled out by the next project. It doesn’t deserve our trust, and it certainly doesn’t deserve the almost unfettered power it’s been given.

At any organization with a shred of accountability, heads would roll. Senior Associate Dean of Residential and Dining Services and longtime renovator-in-chief Richard Bova bears direct responsibility for renovating the Gate and then destroying those renovations a couple years later. Odds are he will never, ever be held accountable.

So what it’s all about? Do administrators simply get off on ribbon-cuttings? On the idle praise they get for unveiling their latest glassy hulk? Certainly that’s part of it, but there’s more.

The administration wants to attract students. But it doesn’t want to spend the money attracting students with lower tuition or better financial aid. Those aren’t the students we want to attract.

The students we want are more expensive, and they have rich families full of potential donors. The administration wants to build luxuries for students perfectly willing to fork over tens of thousands of extra dollars to pay for those luxuries.

And that’s okay, if we want to join the national trend of colleges and universities becoming glitzier, fancier and more expensive. This trend leaves a host of underfunded public institutions and mostly predatory for-profit colleges for everyone not lucky enough to be in a position to attend the more cash-rich schools. It should go without saying that most of us don’t want this future, that we believe in the mission of affordable education even if it means, just once in a while, saying no to the whims of building-happy administrators.

It would be nice if the administration would direct the same urgency toward solving our problems of race, class and worker pay as it does toward building new facilities to sell oversized cookies. Failing that, its renovation plans should at least stick to a state of good repair and have a shelf life of longer than two years.

There’s no reason to rip apart buildings and rearrange the campus just because we can. It’s a shame the administration didn’t realize that before building Andrews Commons, a monument to administrative short-sightedness and incompetence. The destruction of the Gate demonstrates once again that administrators cannot be trusted to run a school.


Daniel Moraff ’14 can be reached at

  • AA

    $3.65 for a brownie. Those better be some ‘special’ brownies.

  • Alum

    Putting the “better use” arguments aside, Brown has been terrible about creating functional spaces with their new constructions. Basic things like rec rooms, TV news, and common areas are non existent or pathetic in their current forms.

    Faunce now has LESS space for students to use as a common space, now that 3/4 of the building are smallish meeting rooms used once a week and administrative offices. The rec room is a smack in the face compared to the old pool hall. Leung Gallery has fallen victim to a few antisocial students studying and enforcing some unspoken silent rule IN A PUBLIC CONGREGATION AREA (the fix here would be background music or TV news playing).

    Andrews Commons is uncomfortable for eating and not ideal for group work. What’s the purpose?

    With the Bear’s Lair renovation there is no longer a dedicated rec room on campus. Not one.

    • TheRationale

      The “better use” is what I presume to be the primary objection for most people. Your objections, though, highlight more precisely how the people making these decisions are off in space.

      • Alum


        I think dwelling on “better use” arguments are futile and at this point intellectual/social justice masturbation. Brown, especially Brown, could speculate, pontificate, and argue for days on how money should be used and get nothing done. Also, the better use arguments start to conflate different earnmarked budgets together for singular, tunnel (en)visioned goals.

        Brown needs functional spaces as they impact not only how people use them but how they interact with each other. Money needs to be spent on making the facilities useful and that has been the case for decades at Brown. Interaction is the point of a physical campus, right?

        The biggest problem is that Brown has never gotten the value out of the expense. Has campus culture radically improved after these botch jobs?

  • jb

    Finally. The shininess does not impress me either. It makes me cringe at how much money was spent on this eatery. As a student, updating campus spaces to look like sterile hotel lobbies is not a priority for me. And frankly, it will inevitably still get sticky and stained from drunk college students at 2am just like the Gate did…

  • Buttz Henderson

    “It’s a big cookie, and it tastes damn good, doesn’t it?” –Senior Associate Dean of Resedential and Dining Services Richard “Dick” Bova

  • bd

    on point, as usual

  • Atlas

    Dude you are one of the few people lucky enough to be afforded admission to an Ivy League School, if you don’t like it leave and go to community college instead of taking someone’s place who would be grateful, and now whine about administration.

    • Alum

      You do need critics to keep things progressing, so people like Moraff are useful and good to have around. The issue is that he’s the only one doing it and kind of grating.

  • SB

    Yo man, the school is already incredibly expensive, this is not what did it.

  • ‘`*-.,_,-*’`*~-.,.~*’*~ (2014)

    ugh no i just read the title and i want to cry i love andrews commons so much 🙁 ok i’ll read the article now

  • Brown ’17

    Andrews Commons is great. It’s bigger and the food’s much better than the Gate. Considering my parents are spending all this money for me to go to Brown (I’m not on financial aid) I’d like to have some amenities. There are more important things than international students.

    • angrybrownstudent

      it continues to amaze me how entitled the students here are. Are you saying that it is more important that you have a few more options at a dining hall than international students receiving need-blind aid? Because you paid full tuition, you suddenly have more power than the poor kids? Did YOU do anything to earn that money??

      • ‘`*-.,_,-*’`*~-.,.~*’*~ (2014)

        “important” was a strong word and came across as douchey but i think their point is that we have to balance the needs and desires of everyone — it’s not all about making the more fortunate students happy, nor is it all about making the less fortunate students (or potential students) happy.

        no one is optimally selfless in their preferences. as an (embarassingly contrived) illustration: i’m assuming your parents occasionally splurge on gifts for you, right? christmas gifts or something? no matter what your financial situation, that’s probably the case. (btw i bet you’re upper middle class like most of brown students; those are generally the people who spring to make comments like yours.) now theoretically your parents could donate all that money to charity, right? but you probably prefer that they get you christmas gifts. again, retardedly contrived example but you get my point.

        tl;dr: chill out, we’re allowed to like nice things

  • ItsNotThisOrThat

    I think it would be worthwhile and relevant to know how much the previous renovation of the Gate cost. I could see renovating it as a stop-gap measure until a better replacement could be built.

    Also this article somewhat implies that financial aid is much more important than investing in facilities. Perhaps that’s not what Moraff believes but that is the impression I get from the article. I don’t think it has to be an us/them this/that situation.

    I think investing in facilities is important for Brown to continue doing. It does seem there has been a bit of waste in recent years, with the Gate reno being a potential example. However I would argue that the focus should be on planning facilities investments more strategically, so that funds are spent more efficiently with less waste.

  • Student

    Thank you for writing the only decent BDH article this whole year.

    • ‘`*-.,_,-*’`*~-.,.~*’*~ (2014)

      it’s a good one!! i heard people talking about it in andrews commons at lunch today AND ALSO i mentioned it to an alum friend and he’d read it too.

      i enjoy the crappy columns, like, a lot… but this one was actually interesting and thought-provoking, which is cool too

  • BDH

    Like any other private institution, it’s a business, not a charity. Higher endowment before need blind aid. Super ignorant leftist who knows very little about economics and finance. Go take your engineering / ethics elsewhere.

  • BB

    What about all of the new jobs that were created for this project?? In addition to construction jobs, it created numerous full time positions for both Dining Services & Facilities Management. I think the impact that the University has on the City of Providence is sometimes overlooked.