by Percy D. Luján.
The long delayed renovation of the Student Life Building is set to finish by the end of Spring Break, but a look inside the facility reveals the changes made.
The renovated SLB will have a new glass storefront, redesigned offices and additional rooms for student clubs.
“The details required more attention than a regular construction,” said Shigehiro Shishido, senior associate at Wasa Studio and architect of the renovation. “The original construction was not well done.”
According to Shishido, some sections of the original construction – which dates back to the 1960s and was not intended to be temporary – did not follow the building code.
Before the renovation began students complained that the SLB had broken ceilings and water pipes, as well as broken furniture.
The renovation – which began March 2012 – was intended to last six months and be finished by September. However, once September arrived, the inauguration of the remodeled facility was pushed a couple more months, first to the beginning of December, then to the end of February.
These delays made students wonder why the renovation was not being carried out on time.
Gezina Bouma, university engineer at the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities stated that such delays are not rare.
She explained that for a public college like Lehman, projects like these are financed with taxpayer money so the college will go to the cheapest bidder; that bidder will in turn go to the cheapest manufacturer to build the parts and the manufacturer, to save money, will wait until all the parts are ready so they can deliver them in just one trip.
Bouma said in an interview last December that the renovation had to overcome two hurdles. One was the delivery of a new air conditioning system to replace the old one that was having problems. The other was the delivery of the parts for the new entrance.
On a tour of the facility, Bouma showed the new arrangement of the rooms. She told the architect to “minimize the amount of hallway space, because no one really uses the hallway, and maximize the amount of room space.”
As a result, many of the clubrooms are arranged in a clover-like fashion. Every clubroom now has its own door to the main hallway. Doors connecting different rooms to each other have been eliminated. On the first floor, four new clubrooms have been added, and the radio station has been moved more the West side of the building.
The rooms for the SGA and the Campus Life Office have been redesigned, and the railing of the staircase has been replaced. The game room, the Meridian office, and the kitchen have barely been touched.
Shishido explained that CUNY and Lehman decided to change the ceiling, even though this was not included in the original plan. “I am proud of what we are achieving with the limited budget we have here,” he said.
In anticipation of the building’s completion clubs have had to adapt to the absence of space. Brian Rivas, a member of Bushido Anime, said that his club “adapted” and moved to the Carman cafeteria, taking a quarter of the space there.
Rivas hopes that the new rooms provide the same sense of comfort the older rooms provided. He said, “I expect to have the same calming space where we can all plan club activities and relax and study and have fun.”
Other groups were more affected by the change, such as Rainbow Alliance. Its president, Denise Atherley, said that not having a clubroom has hindered their privacy.
“We no longer have that consistent safe space where members could come together and have the privacy to disclose personal information,” Atherley said. “It made it difficult for things to run as cohesively as they could because members weren’t able to really build relationships with one another without a room to be in. I expect to get a room that could provide a safe space for the members of capitalize club name: Rainbow Alliance once the renovation is complete.”
After an audit of all CUNY schools in 2008 by the CUNY Central Office, it was decided that schools could only carry over up to $250,000 from the student activities budget to the next academic year. Because some of the schools had collected more than $1 million in student activities fees, they could invest it in anything they desired.
Lehman decided to use the some of the extra money – over $1.2 million – for a full renovation of the SLB. Due to the fact CUNY agreed to pay for half of the cost, the extra money intended for renovation will now be used for refurnishing, according to Michael Sullivan, director of the Office of Campus Life.