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Moraff '14: Andrews Commons: a colossal waste

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

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