Movin’ on Up

Oddly enough, everything seems to be working, Captain.

“Oddly enough, everything seems to be working, Captain.”

Carl Brooks

Amid a flurry of last minute scheduling and the inevitable dash of UMass Boston controversy, the much-anticipated move into the new Campus Center went off as well as anyone could have hoped. In what organizers characterized as “a great success,” hundreds of staff and students took up residence in their new digs, unpacking bright orange crates and carrying armloads of office knickknacks, banners, and anything else that wasn’t nailed down.

The move, which has been planned for months, was originally scheduled for January, but lack of an occupancy permit prevented the building being habitable until now. Even as student groups and campus organizations move into finished office wings, work on the building continues. Small pieces of blue masking tape still mark areas that need attention, many doors, stairwells, and elevators remain inaccessible, and Xeroxed pieces of paper direct the new tenants where they need to go. The official opening of the building is set for April 2.

Eleventh hour negotiations between the administration and a united front of student organizations were successfully concluded last Wednesday, just before the groups’ move.

Despite lingering inconviences and some confusion over the new layout, which is a radical departure from the concrete cubicle look of the old buildings, people were very happy about the change.

“It is beautiful, don’t you think?” said Student Senate President Susan Smith. Smith, who just took over as senate president, was enthusiastic about the open layout, “I think it’s great. It’ll achieve our goals of communication and availability with the new communication standards of the senate and it fits our game plan.” Smith says the game plan is to improve student participation and awareness.

Joyce Morgan, Director of Student life, oversaw the move, and said that she had high hopes for more of a “community feel” in the new space. She said the move itself was very sudden, but the moving company, ABC Moving, was “outstanding.” Morgan, whose office is already populated with stuffed animals, plants and decorations, said, “We could have had a little bit more warning, now. We found out last Thursday that we were moving this Thursday!” Morgan says that Student Life has been preparing for the move since early January, when it was first scheduled, so they already had quite a bit of packing done. Altogether, Student Life, which includes student organizations, moved 83 pieces of equipment and more than 200 crates and boxes.

Delays in the opening and occupancy of the swanky new building have been ascribed to budget cuts. Originally planned for last fall, the building is opening gradually to allow contractors more time to finish up and save money on moving costs, and to reduce costly disruptions in campus life. The building is intended to be the flagship of the campus, and will house what the administration calls “one-stop shopping” for students, with student organizations, student service organizations, the admissions office, the bursar, registrar, and bookstore all in one building. The building also has a new cafeteria and coffee shop.

The administration is hoping the campus center will revitalize student life on campus, but concerns over the new building and the new spaces that the various student organizations would occupy had been running high prior to the move, and student groups banded together to present the administration with a list of concerns. They threatened a boycott of the move if some of their concerns weren’t met, but, in a remarkable departure from the usual bloody combat between administration and university denizens, the boycott never had to go beyond the planning stages and the dispute was resolved amicably by new Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Dr. Keith Motley.

In a letter to the administration, students outlined major concerns like privacy, security, amenities for the disabled, and nuts and bolts worries about storage space and comfy furniture for common areas.

Privacy and security topped the list because of the Campus Center’s “open architecture.” Each floor in the office complex is divided into wings, which have offices along one side and multioccupancy cubicles in the open center. There are no doors except at the ends of each wing, and the offices and cubicles are all open to each other. The wings are open to the two great hallways in the building, meaning that passersby can see into office spaces, and office dwellers can see each other across the open space. This is a radical departure from the rest of campus, which has been likened to a “rat’s nest” of offices off hallways.

Security is an obvious concern, since the doors to each wing are currently open to everyone from 7am to 7pm. Locking cabinets and desk drawers are provided for each office, but wouldn’t prevent ne’er-do-wells from making off with computers or anything left unguarded. Groups with sensitive information have more pressing concerns. The Ross Center for Disabilities Services, which moved in on Monday, keeps thousands of medical records and personal information about members in its offices, and the new design poses a challenge, according to Director Sheila Petrucelli. “It’s a huge concern for us. We have lots of confidential information.” Pettrucelli says that the problem is under control, however, “The space is open, but they are all under lock and key. When we’ve relocated them [to the new offices], they will all be locked at all times.”

Petrucelli has said that the Campus Center staff, headed up by Director Anne Devaney, was extremely helpful.

Access for students with disabilities was another thorny issue for new tenants. Very few of the heavy glass doors in the Campus Center are motorized, and there are many yards of carpeting, which is hard to negotiate in wheelchairs. Most of these issues have been solved, according to students and administration.

In what is widely seen as a tremendously positive piece of negotiation, Motley met with all the student coordinators last Wednesday and managed to iron out all their concerns in a few hours, which included a tour of the new office wings. Vienna Rothberg, coordinator of the Women’s Center, said, “All our concerns have been addressed. Everything’s been taken care of.”

Motley also found the experience positive, saying the student organizations approached him “not in an adversarial manner” and said, “They came to me for help… but they also came to me with solutions, so we were able to meet halfway and sort of work through their concerns.

“We sat around for a couple hours and walked in the building and it opened up my eyes to things we needed to be about changing, and we agreed to do that.”

Motley cited concerns about students feeling uncomfortable in the new building and space issues. “They were downsizing their spaces to a level that, I think, was not acceptable, and we decided to work through that.”

Rothberg said that she had no more reservations whatsoever about the Campus Center or the treatment of student groups after meeting with Motley, and said the experience reinforced her commitment to cooperative efforts. “It’s been great starting dialogue like this.”

She said the negotiations and the move helped foster cooperative feeling among student groups. “This has really opened the channels of communication and given us a sense of our power as a collective.”

One complaint that remains to be ironed out is the office chairs. More than a few students had complaints about the dysfunctional and apparently flimsy office chairs they received. One student said her office had “about five dollars worth of chair” in it. The castors of the chairs lock when someone sits on them, so they no longer roll. This inconvenient feature was apparently a result of a misunderstanding with Knoll Life, the firm that designed and supplied the office furniture. “There was a mix up with Life,” said Geoff Combs, operations manager for the Campus Center. Combs went on to state that the offending wheels will be replaced with wheels that roll shortly. Some offices have much swankier tall, black office chairs that do roll. According to Combs, “the chairs were selected to harmonize with each office environment.” All the office wings are more or less identical.

Who’s Next:

The following people will be moving to the new campus center on the following dates; offices that are moving will be closed on those dates.

Thursday, March 11ABC Moving will deliver crates and dollies to everybody moving on March 18

Monday, March 15 – Tuesday, March 16Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, Vice Chancellor of Enrollment Management, Financial Aid, the Student Service Center, Academic Support, and the Registrar are all moving

Tuesday, March 16MITY LITE tables delivered

Thursday, March 18 – Friday, March 19Alumni offices, the Advising Center, Central Reprographics, Student Support, the Bursar, and Graduate Admissions are moving

Monday, March 22The new Food Court opens on the first floor. The Wheatley and McCormack cafeterias will be closing down

Wednesday, March 31The new bookstore opens in the upper level