An ad hoc task force within the Board of Trustees will review several options for the future of Emerson’s Colonial Theatre and the relocation of the dining hall during the renovation of the Little Building. A final decision is expected to be made on both issues by March 2016.
President M. Lee Pelton said in an interview that the committee, led by Pelton and Trustee Steven Samuels, has three main goals: to evaluate proposals for the repurposement of the theater, to analyze the cost of repairs needed in the theater, and to look at the finances involved in replacing the college’s primary dining facility. Samuels could not be reached for comment.
Pelton said he hopes the first meeting will be held on Nov. 20.
The committee includes six trustees (including Samuels and Chairman Jeffrey Greenhawt), five college administrators (including Pelton), three faculty members, one member of the Board of Overseers, and one student representative. They will be divided into three subgroups, each chaired by a Trustee and focused on one of the goals.
Melia Bensussen, chair of the performing arts department, was asked to serve on the task after her participation in a presentation at a Board of Trustees meeting last month with other members of the Faculty Assembly to ask for more faculty input in decisions about the Colonial. She said she plans to be a representative for the performing arts community, students, alumni, and faculty.
“The best things I have made [in my career] have been collaborations with other people,” Bensussen said. “I’m very hopeful that this group, working together, can come up with plans that will benefit the whole community.”
Bensussen said that the makeup of the group seems to provide a variety of perspectives, but she said she couldn’t make a judgement on its productivity until after they begin their discussions.
Emily Solomon, a junior visual and media arts major and the executive president of the Student Government Association, is the sole student representative on the task force. She said that it concerns her to be the only voice for the undergraduate body, especially since she is not a performing arts student.
“It is well within my plan to actively reach out to students to make sure I am taking their thoughts and ideas into the room with me,” Solomon said. “But it helps when there’s more than one of us.”
Bensussen said that she’s looking forward to seeing other proposals for the theater, as she said she and other faculty members don’t see the plan for the Colonial to be a student center and dining hall to be a viable one.
Pelton said that the college has several developed proposals for the space ready to be analyzed. He said the committee will likely solicit more proposals and also accept potential plans from outside groups.
The subgroups will mostly work independently but in regular communication with one another, according to Pelton.
“The groups will have to come together as a whole several times throughout the process, not only to get the benefit of the entire group perspective but also to understand how the various pieces fit together,” Pelton said.
Solomon said that she is looking forward to hearing the trustees ideas, as they have a better institutional understanding of the college.
“The value there and the value of current immediate student concerns and what that means for the future is what I think they need to strike a balance between,” Solomon said.
He said that the committee has pledged to be open about their progress with Emerson community members.
“It’s difficult work,” Pelton said. “Nevertheless, I’m convinced that the makeup of the ad hoc committee and the organization into the subgroups will provide us with a way forward that will meet our long-term objectives.”