AMBLER – Acting Dean Jim Hilty at the Ambler Campus predicted that the modern, spacious and high-tech Ambler Learning Center “very likely will become the central point of the campus” when it opened in fall 2006.
A description on Ambler’s Web site seconds that claim. Now, many student organizations have seen declining support from students on campus because of the shift from Ambler’s student activities center and campus hub, Bright Hall.
Ryan Gillon, Ambler Student Government Association vice president of academic affairs, said he does not see Bright Hall as the center of campus anymore.
“I think that’s virtually impossible,” he said. “There are way too many necessities in the Learning Center. Bright Hall needs to offer way more in order for it to compete with the Learning Center.”
Administration maintains that the Learning Center is an academic building and that it is not meant to replace Bright Hall, said Saul Katzman, Ambler’s director of finance and accounting.
Currently, student organizations are only permitted to set up tables for events in two places – the corridor in front of the Learning Center’s auditorium and in front of the computer lab.
Because of the heavy circulation in the Learning Center, student organizations like Sigma Chi Delta Sorority have been prohibited from selling anything at the front entrance. The change in location has slowed the sorority’s pretzels sales and affected their fundraising results, said Sigma Chi Delta Vice President Carly Sokoloff.
Corrie Torres, a senior education major, said she thinks the Learning Center is most popular with the students.
“I think the Learning Center is the [most] frequented area on campus,” Torres said. “I feel students lose business by not being able to be there.”
Hilty said he sees the issue from both the students’ side and the administration’s side, but said the entrance to the Learning Center is too busy to allow student groups to set up tables there.
“They’re welcome to sell [in the Learning Center],” Hilty said. “What it amounts to is a congested area, and we don’t want to further congest it. We’re concerned about the safety. We can’t crowd up the main hallway where there are main traffic patterns. We would like to accommodate them as best as we can, but we don’t want fire marshal laws violated. There are occupancy laws about the amount of people in one area.”
Katzman said several ideas are in the planning stages to counter these difficulties.
“We are receiving positive feedback about improving this issue,” Katzman said. “We are looking at cost-effective features.”
Two standing, double-sided signs, each measuring 24-by-36 inches, were bought to draw greater attention to organizational activities. One will be tentatively placed in front of the auditorium and the other in front of the entrance to the computer lab.
Since the computer lab entrance is also heavily trafficked, it will help to improve student activities awareness, Katzman said.
As a longer-term solution to the decline of Bright Hall’s student appeal, preliminary plans are being formed to renovate the 48-year-old building. Katzman agrees that when compared to the Learning Center, Bright Hall looks “old and out-of-date” and has some heating and cooling problems. Fixing these problems will require a lot of architectural planning, he said.
Goals include improving the use of the student lounge, increasing the visibility of the Hooter’s Nest, installing an elevator for the second floor, and making the facility more usable for student organizations. These plans will be considered following the completion and approval of the Ambler Task Force’s current recommendations, which are due to be submitted by May 1.
Changes that may occur in the meantime include the moving of the Student Health Center or the Bursar’s Office to Bright Hall. The police center will be moved from the Hilda Justice Building to Bright Hall as well, making the facility a safer location at night, Katzman said.
“Now what we have is another campus necessity inside Bright Hall. That’s another step in the right direction,” Katzman said.
As to the resolution of the conflict, Gillon said the restricted use of the Learning Center and aging of Bright Hall is irritating. Moreover, he emphasized the importance of students voicing their opinions and concerns.
“People act like the students are on one side and management, administration and facilities is on the other,” Gillon said. “The faculty is willing to listen. I’ve been here for five years and we’ve gotten some great things accomplished when everyone works on the same page. But I absolutely feel that the students are the ones coming up short, and it is almost 100 percent their own fault.”
Katzman said the relationship between students and administration in this issue is not an adversarial one, but one that requires communication.
Hilty also said that students can contact his office to voice their concerns.
“We welcome any kind of comments any time,” Hilty said. “SGA has been helpful in providing survey explanations or concerns of the campus.”
Maggie Lai can be reached at email@example.com.