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Kimmel's empty promises
by Katie Griffiths

The Kimmel Center for University Life is scheduled to open next fall, and will certainly be open by Spring, “replacing” the Loeb student center that was demolished three years ago. The two-hundred million dollar building will be home to a theater, administrative offices, a dining hall, a confrence center and an impresive stair case, but will have significantly less student space than Loeb did. In fact, if the administration’s plans don’t change, Kimmel may have even less than the meager offerings students currently enjoy.

Despite students’ concerns that these changes will wreak havoc on NYU club and student life, Sally Arthur, the Vice President of Student Affairs, has said she’d “bet [her] last dime” students are going to like it.

At a recent Town Hall Meeting, Arthur thanked club members for their cooperation during the transition between Loeb and Kimmel, saying that students “didn’t make a whimper” when Loeb was destroyed and they were forced to make due with temporary accomodations.

In fact, students did make a whimper – and much more. On April 22, 1999, students protested the change from a “Student Center” to a “Center for University Life” and 120 undergraduates held a silent sit-in outside a University Senate Meeting, holding signs that read “Not Your University,” directing the message at administraters entering the meeting.

The community also objected to the plans for Kimmel, fearing that another tall NYU building adjacent to Washington Square would block out the sun in the park durring most hours of day. Community members held pickets and curculated petitions, bringing attention to the Kimmel issue, and to NYU’s ever-expanding real estate ventures.

In response to this pressure, the NYU administration established a student committee to give recomendations concerning student space in Kimmel. NYU also altered the plans for Kimmel Center, promising that the top two floors would be encased in glass, allowing sunlight to filter through.

But NYU’s basic plan has remained unchanged. Kimmel will be a Center for University Life, and a cash cow for NYU. Instead of the large, open student lounges that seniors remember from Loeb, there will be several smaller lounges of the kind we now have in Mercer Lounge or Main Building.

Instead of offices, clubs will be offered file cabinets for storage, forcing many to dispose of bulky objects like club libraries and records, trophies, microwaves, banners and signs. Instead of rooms reserved for student meetings, clubs will have to share with classes and academic confrences. At the Town Hall meeting, Vice Provost Richard Stanley promised that students would have “priority” in room scheduling, but this has not been backed up with concrete plans. As it stands now, scheduling will take place on a first-come, frist-serve basis -- meaning that students will almost certainly lose out to the Office of the Registrar, private companies, and conferences planned months in advance, and that student life will be sacrificed in the service of higher revenue for the University.

That money-making activities have taken a higher priority than student life in Kimmel is not unique to NYU. Students at universities in many parts of the country are losing space to activies that more efficiently profit their schools. It seems likely that plans for Kimmel will be equally detrimental to student life at NYU. Victoria Cepeida-Mojaro, a Student Senator and political Chair of LUCHA, says she is “unhappy with the lack of student involvement in these plans.” Cepeida-Mojarro charges that arrangements in Kimmel constitute a “divide and conquor method” to undermine campus activities. Lacking offices, and with rooms scarce, different clubs -- sometimes with contrary purposes -- will be forced to meet, discuss and debate internal club concerns in the same room: a setup in which there is “not a physical place to facilitate open dialogue” within groups. Nor will there be ample physical space for individual students to meet, or for student organizations to hold events, and an already lacking campus culture is sure to have the breeze taken out of its sails.



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