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UCS, Corporation members discuss dorm renovations

Council members also provide feedback on BrownConnect to trustee, young alumni trustee

Physical campus priorities, including the addition of study spaces and renovation of dormitories, dominated discussion at the Undergraduate Council of Students general body meeting Wednesday night featuring two Corporation members.

Corporation Trustee Nancy Hyde ’80 and Corporation Young Alumni Trustee Kayla Rosen ’14 sought feedback from the council regarding the results of the UCS Fall Poll, which was released Monday.

UCS President Sazzy Gourley ’16 said the meeting marked a way “to engage with how the Corporation is perceived on campus.”

“For many students, it’s a mysterious body that makes changes in a room behind closed doors,” Gourley said. “In reality, it’s much more of an advisory board for Brown.”

Proposed renovations to dormitories and common campus spaces sparked a long exchange between the Corporation members and the council. In response to a question on the UCS Fall Poll about which physical campus spaces had a pressing need for renovation or expansion, 36.9 percent of respondents cited dorms and residential spaces.

Several council members voiced concern over the conditions of certain residence halls.

Perkins Hall and Graduate Center “are not being prioritized,” said Justice Gaines ’16, a UCS general body member.

“As other spaces get better, those spaces appear worse and worse,” said Ryan Lessing ’17, UCS community and business relations liaison, referencing extensive renovations to improve Wriston Quadrangle dorms completed last summer.

The nature of study spaces — which 57.2 percent of UCS Fall Poll respondents believed were in need of renovation or expansion — also emerged as an area of concern.

“The problem is that libraries are more for individual study, and residence hall lounges aren’t focused and quiet spaces,” said Minoshka Narayan ’18, adding that the University currently lacks areas for serious group study.

“Multipurposing rooms is very important,” Hyde said in response. Study spaces must “have furnishings that accommodate both” work and leisure activities, she said.

Council members were in agreement that the Sharpe Refectory is in need of a substantial overhaul and should possibly be razed altogether. The Ratty is slated to undergo a $30 million renovation that would update its plumbing and HVAC systems, though administrators do not expect construction to begin within the next year.

“My opinion is that we need something new,” Hyde said. “It has finally come to the forefront (of the Corporation’s agenda) to do something about it,” she said, adding that the potential costs of renovation and new construction must be evaluated to determine the best option.

The UCS Fall Poll included a section for student feedback on BrownConnect, the internship search and networking site introduced last year. The Center for Careers and Life After Brown plans on unveiling a new version of the initiative, called BrownConnect 2.0, this fall.

Rosen said a focus of BrownConnect is “relief of the stress of trying to find postgrad opportunities,” she said.

Council members expressed favorable sentiments about their experiences with BrownConnect.

“The website was really accessible, and if people were able to find opportunities, the responses were generally positive,” said UCS Admissions and Student Services Committee Chair Peter Dutton ’18.

Rakel Galeano ’18, a UCS general body member, said the service could improve its visibility on campus. “Some students just don’t know about the resources that are available,” she said.

Rosen asked about the nature of this communication breakdown, inquiring as to whether the problem lies in content, access to content or communication.

“Access is the issue,” UCS general body member Austin Lessin ’19 said in response. “You have to be the one reaching out and scheduling meetings” with alums, he added.

The diversity of the fields in which internship and job opportunities are available also received attention. “Not everyone wants to work at the same big firm,” said UCS Treasurer John Brewer ’17. “Some smaller, unique places don’t have the resources to come” to campus, he added.

This problem can be solved by expanding connections with alums, who love engaging with current students who share their qualities or interests, Hyde said. For example, alums who were first-generation students may enjoy meeting their counterparts in the current student body, she said.

Students of color and LGBTQ students face unique obstacles when it comes to the internship and job search, Gaines said. BrownConnect would improve as a resource if it allowed students to gain mentorship based on aspects of their identity, Gaines added.



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