University funding proposed for student space

With potential funding from the University’s budget, the Marvin Center’s fourth floor is one step closer to a renovation that would open up more space for student organizations.

One of the project’s top student lobbyists, Dylan Pyne, said $250,000 will be added to the University’s budget proposal, which will go before the Board of Trustees next week, to fund renovations like a student media center and conference rooms for student groups.

Provost Steven Lerman has “deemed the plan worthy to put in the proposed budget – a big win for the student body,” Pyne said. The student leader talked about the project with the provost and incoming Marvin Center Governing Board Chair John Richardson at a meeting May 10, though Lerman declined to confirm the potential for funding ahead of the board’s approval.

Lerman, who reviews the budget for student life funding, said in an email May 10 that increased student space is “a priority for the University,” adding that the renovations are under review.

The provost also expressed support for the project during the Student Association’s May 4 transition, at which point incoming student leaders officially assume their titles.

But one of the University’s top student life administrators, Tim Miller, thinks the plan should be tabled until campus organizations spend time in the new office space before laying out further changes.

The groups will be take over 33 percent more space on the Marvin Center’s fourth floor, as the Center for Student Engagement will move up one floor this summer. The fourth floor includes about 70 student group offices out of the total 470 groups on campus.

“I don’t know if we should be changing space between just this year’s opinion,” Miller, director of the CSE, said.

“I don’t know why we have to renovate walls when open space already exists in the offices they’re acquiring,” he added. Some offices that CSE will vacate already offer collaborative space, Miller said.

Richardson and Pyne lobbied throughout the year for increased student space on campus, pointing to the loss of campus spots like the Hippodrome, WOW Café & Wingery and the Fishbowl student lounge in the past year.

“We fought all year to get this additional space and get money to renovate it,” Pyne said. “Campus has no real general student space for students to enjoy themselves. That, along with student organization space, is essential to this project.”

Their efforts coincide with the $2 million student services center construction, which will be completed this summer and create a centralizing administrative office hub on the Marvin Center fifth floor.

Alicia O’Neil Knight, senior associate vice president for operations, declined to provide specifics about the outlook of the project’s funding.

“It would be premature to comment on what is in the capital budget until after the Board of Trustees has reviewed and voted on it,” O’Neil Knight said.

Knight worked with Pyne in April to tally the costs of his original proposal, helping to shave costs from a $1 million price tag by nixing amenities like new carpeting, painting and extra storage units to account for the high costs of the proposed demolition.

Dean of Students Peter Konwerski lauded the administrative and student partnership “to achieve a shared vision.”

“Ultimately, like every decision at GW, the discussions need to take into account a number of important, but often competing priorities that require careful coordination and share perspective for common goals to be achieved,” Konwerski said.

He declined to comment on whether he thought the plan’s budget would be approved.

Michael Peller, assistant vice president for events and venues, also declined to comment on the likeliness of the project’s funding, but said he looks forward to “working with the students to finalize plans as the process continues.”

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