Max Caf#233; slated for remodeling, televisions

by Beacon Staff • February 6, 2008

In an effort to accommodate students living off campus, Emerson is in the final stages of installing an array of big-screen televisions in the lobby of Piano Row as well as converting the east section of the Max Mutchnick Campus Center Cafe into a lounge area, school administrators said.

After the sale of the old Student Union at 96 Beacon St. in 2006, the college struggled to provide the type of lounge areas that students living off-campus require, said Sara Sheckells, director of student activities. This lead the college to form a plan to better use the space at hand.

"I guess there was no one eating there, so they want to use the space for something else," said David Rosen, vice president for public affairs.

Sheckells said both past and current students helped administrators determine how the lounge should look and feel at a focus group last summer. According to a memo resulting from that meeting, the space will include comfortable seating, soft lighting, carpeting, colorful walls, a game area, gaming tables and a cork board on which to post fliers.

To aid in the conversion, Sheckells said the class of 2008 will donate a foosball and air hockey table for the space.

Stacey Cate, Emerson's annual fund coordinator, said she expected most of the donations in the next month, with a plan to unveil their gift by mid-May.

"The goal is to raise $6,000 and with that money they will buy the two game tables," Cate said. "If there is money left over they will try to buy a video monitor."

Dean of Students Ronald Ludman said a diversely composed campus center planning committee was formed before construction on Piano Row began, but the building's space limitations forced the college to discard some suggestions.

"After living in the Max, understanding the student traffic patterns and listening to student feedback, the College recognized that the second dining area (east cafeacute;) was under utilized and that there was a far greater need for a second student lounge in the building," Ludman said in an e-mail interview. "As a result the College decided the east cafeacute; space would better serve the students in the form of a gathering space composed of soft seating and game tables."

Four flat-screen televisions have already been installed in the lobby of Piano Row so students living off campus may have fair access to the Emerson Channel, said Dr. William Gilligan, vice president for information technology.

Each of the four screens will be able to independently display different media, with audio provided wirelessly via radio signal.

Gilligan said the four screens are part of the buildings original design, and estimated their total cost to be as high at $25,000, but was unable to quote an exact price.

"We need to provide ways for non-resident students to be able to see what their fellow students are doing," he said. "And if something happens during the day, non-residents should have access to something like CNN."

Gilligan said each television cost between $3,000-$4,000, with installation and software each running into the thousands, but Vice President for Administration and Finance David Ellis said he was not able to disclose or confirm the price of either the televisions or the lounge conversion projects, saying cost information is confidential.

Junior Seamus Donahoe agreed with Gilligan about wanting more access to student work, but suggested alternative ways to spend that money.

"Maybe they could hire more teachers, or buy five or six more cameras, or a screening studio that would be open to everyone," said Donahoe.

Not only did Donahoe say he thought the money could be better spent, but also that the student union at 96 Beacon St. was a unique place that felt like home, unlike the Max Mutchnik Campus Center.

"There was a sense of 'school was here,' and 'home was there,'" the BFA film major said about the historic brownstone. "It was just a place to go and relax."

Donahoe pointed to the sharp contrast between the old building and the new facility in Piano Row.

"They did a good job with the utilitarian needs [in Piano Row], but not the human needs," he said. "What should really be on the minds of the administrators is the quality of the education."