The dark side of a student center: changes will gentrify, displace college life


Photo courtesy of Rhodes College

The Barret Library foyer

Shelby Seese '21, Contributor

Nearly everyone on campus has been pushing for a new student center ever since the petition for one. It feels like someone’s always talking about it, and our student government is the strongest supporter of a student center. We have seen so much positive propaganda about how a student center would improve student life on campus, but are they, and everyone else, completely aware of the ramifications a student center would have? Because of this seemingly campus-wide desire, the administration has been harried into searching for spaces on campus to put a student center. One such space they have considered is the basement of the library. I know this for a fact because I work there myself, and I have seen an architect taking measurements for a quote during one of my shifts. 

In remodeling the library’s basement into a student center, they would effectively displace the twenty or so adults and students who work in those departments, forcing them to make space for new offices on other floors. However, they cannot relocate all the departments because there is specialized equipment in our book repair workroom that can’t be moved, so those of us in certain departments wouldn’t be able to simply move upstairs. Therefore, to solve this unfortunate “problem” the administration is considering adding a wall to section off the workroom and nearby shelving space from the proposed student center. This would completely shut off this particular department from other library employees and, quite frankly, any other people. I don’t think anyone would want to work like that: completely isolated, devoid of regular social interaction, and sequestered in the basement with the main source of light walled-off. Would you?

Even if the administration decides against using the basement of the library, I’m sure they’d just find another space to remodel, and then the employees and frequenters of that space would then suffer instead. When people imagine getting a new student center, I think that they picture a whole new building specifically for that purpose. I don’t think they realize that Rhodes administration is going to save money anyway they can in this endeavor. Constructing a whole new building costs much more than simply remodeling a pre-existing one, and they would want to earn back the costs, and more, of this investment. So, no matter which space they choose to conquer, someone will suffer the consequences of it. 

As for a student center supposedly “solving” the alcohol problem, I seriously don’t see how it would. So many more factors—family, genetics, peer pressure, American culture, etc.—effect someone’s choice to drink dangerously than just a slight lack of social spaces on campus. If people are going to drink dangerously, then they will and having a student center can’t simply make that problem go away. If anything, a student center would just be a band-aid over the issue, instead of something that would actually heal the damage.

There have been multiple articles and other sources highlighting the pros of a student center and exaggerating why people want one, but I haven’t seen anything presenting any cons. This surprised me because I know that there are people on this campus who agree with me, and it’s shocking that not everyone’s voice in this matter has been heard. I believe it’s important to present the facts of both sides before making such a large decision that affects everyone on campus. The people pushing for a student center should realize that it affects more people than they care to think. 



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