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University plans renovations of Rathskellar

By Casey LamkinSpecial to the chronicle The university project planning committee is moving forward on their plans to renovate the Rathskellar, also known as the Rat. The project consists of renovating the entire lower level of the Student Center in a way that enhances the area’s usefulness and attractiveness to the entire student body. The committee is made up of representatives from the Division of Student Affairs, the Student Government Association, Compass Dining and the Facilities and Operations Department. W. Houston Dougharty, vice president of student affairs, said, “Last year, during the many conversations we had with students and other community members during the master planning process, we heard loud and clear that our campus needs more places for folks to experience community – to hang out together, to study together, to gather casually and comfortably.” The committee is approaching the project as an opportunity to do something nice for the student community; however, there is a growing concern among the student body, particularly that of the gamers located in the basement Game Room and Hofstra’s Greek life who gather in the Rat. In a meeting on Nov. 16, three out of five plans that were discussed entail splitting the game room between Hofstra’s gaming community and Greek life community. Kevin Gomes, a junior RTVF major, avid gamer and game room employee, said “[The renovations are] complete garbage. The gamers and Greek life are two different types of people. We love getting loud and enjoying what we do best. Having both in one room would be hell. We have no resentment towards other groups, but this is the home for the gamers and we feel that our social environment would be destroyed.” Gomes suggests that the committee “upgrade the facilities, but don’t move the organizations and communities in these already designated areas.” Beyond that there is a great worry within the Greek community that history would be lost in the Rat. A portion of students find even the thought of renovations unsettling. Senior Public Relations major and member of Phi Sigma Sigma, Nia Balbo said, “The Rathskellar is the only place Greek Life can call its own on campus. Long Island rules and spacing prohibit Greek organizations from having official chapter houses on or off campus, so the Rathskellar is the one place that we have to gather, meet and study with not only our organizations, but others as well. To either take our space away or combine it with other groups of people diminishes the quiet space a lot of us need.” This is recognized by the renovations committee and Dougharty reassures that “whatever we do, we must honor the traditions and legacy of the fraternity and sorority organizations that have long used and enjoyed the space. Ideally, I would love for us to be able to creatively establish spaces that all of campus can enjoy and retain design elements and gathering spaces for groups that already enjoy the space. We are hoping for a ‘both/and’ solution.” Building off of this positive approach toward the renovations, SGA Public Relations Chair Whitney Shepard explained the organization’s view of the proposals. She said, “SGA is excited to be a part of the process in helping the university brainstorm new plans to renovate the Rathskellar. To not only add new parts, but to revamp and keep the traditions of the Greek Life community.” Shepard added that after the winter intercession, her committee will be hosting a press conference for the student body that will include administration and student leaders. “We are very excited about this upcoming process and encourage students to reach out if they have any other suggestions,” she said. The committee has made it clear that no decisions have been made and they are in the beginning stages of considering the pros and cons of the different plans currently drawn up. They are looking at other models of student centers, such as those found in Morgan State University, Washington College, Vanderbilt University and Miami University for inspiration for the design. They would also like to place a new food service in the basement to make it more attractive to the entire student body. Talks of the food service have centered around making a full-service Starbucks with a professional barista and more food options, but all talks are preliminary. Octavia Thompson, captain of Strictly Steppin’, feels that renovations and a new food service are necessary in the Rathskellar and would benefit the step team because they practice there every night. “We would love to have air conditioners or some sort of fan system so that there is air being circulated throughout the room. We practice at night and we are sweating a lot. There is little air down here and it can be really hard to breathe. We would also like a food service down here so that after our practices we can eat instead of going to HofUSA every single night,” she said. Thompson was however displeased that her team hadn’t heard of the renovations, “We are here most of the time and no one thought to notify us.” Discussion of these renovations will be ongoing. Dougharty said, “Our hope is that some positive renovations of the Student Center lower level can happen before the fall of 2016.”

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