Space crunch strains Emerson

by Beacon Staff • March 5, 2008

In 2006, Emerson officially opened the Piano Row Residence Hall and closed the West Side of campus.,Emerson College is an unconventional school that does not boast a typical campus. Many enjoy the fact that Emerson students are right in the heart of Boston, but the school's location lacks one major thing: space.

In 2006, Emerson officially opened the Piano Row Residence Hall and closed the West Side of campus. This included two buildings at Zero Marlborough and Six Arlington St. which contained a residence hall and a student center.

Future proposed plans for expansion of the Emerson campus include renovating the current Colonial Building to house students and converting the Paramount Theatre on Washington St. into a performance complex and residence hall, but unfortunately these plans have not yet been executed.

The performance complex at the Paramount is scheduled to provide six rehearsal studios and eight practice rooms as well as two theatres.

The plans were published in the Feb. 2008 edition of Emerson Today and according to the Vice President for Administration and Finance, Robert Silverman, construction will finish by the fall of 2009. Therefore, for the next three semesters, current Emerson students will have to duke it out for the limited space on campus.

This year, Emerson succumbed to forcing over 100 students to live in area hotels because the school did not expect such a large enrollment from the class of 2011. As a result, the current residence halls couldn't keep up with the demand for residence space.

Emerson announced in its annual housing information packet that the school plans to rent 100 beds at the Doubletree Hotel for the 2008-09 school year. Even with the additional rooms in hotels, many students are still forced to move off campus. This year, in a letter sent out by Mary Wegmann, the director of housing, 162 students were placed on a housing waiting list.

Moving off campus is admittedly an exciting prospect for many students. Private bedrooms, a kitchen and more independence are all benefits to having an apartment. However, the downside is that Emerson is located right in downtown Boston. Trying to get an affordable apartment close to the school is nearly impossible. Inexpensive housing is available outside of Boston in areas such as Allston and Brighton, but Emerson students who live in these areas face longer travel times.

As for performance space, good luck. There are three just three such locations available for student use on campus. They are The Cabaret in the Little Building, the Multipurpose Room in Piano Row and the Bill Bordy Theater located at 216 Tremont. Emerson does have three other theatres on campus, but student groups are rarely allowed to use the facilities. The school boasts numerous performance groups ranging from dance troupes to a cappella groups, but the fact that there are only three designated venues means students are in a constant battle to seize available space on campus.

Brittney Hershkowitz, a junior marketing communication major and one of the captains of the Emerson College Dance Team, spoke fondly of the former West Side campus.

"Zero Marlborough had a huge [dance] studio with a nice sprung floor," she said. To her recollection, the studio was never locked, so students could go down there and practice any time.

According to Katie Rolph, a senior musical theatre major, the West Side was "just as unique as [the] student body," and had rooms that could accommodate anything ranging from dance rehearsals to meetings and performances.

Amazingly, despite our current lack of space, Emerson recently announced that it was going to start using the Common Application to increase student enrollment. We don't need more students; we are already without adequate facilities to support our programs. As it is, many performance classes are held blocks away from campus, because Emerson has to rent studio space at the Boston Ballet on Clarendon Street.

To avoid this struggle for space on campus, the college could have done one simple thing: Keep the West Side until the Paramount and Colonial were completed. However, the reality is that we do not have the facilities on Marlborough Street so until 2009, our school is stuck in a space crunch.

What this school needs to do is arrange off-campus space that is managed by Emerson staff members so students can go ahead and reserve space when needed. Student groups can already go off campus for events, but the process is time consuming and expensive.

On the other hand, perhaps, Emerson should simply restrict enrollment for the class of 2012, until the new buildings are completed so that the facilities will meet the demands of the student body. But that would mean halting for one second the massive expansion that has become the current administration's trademark.