GW will begin updates to the aging Multicultural Student Services Center over winter break.
The renovations come eight months after student leaders began demanding upgrades to the G Street building, which is the on-campus hub for multicultural organizations like the Black Student Union and the GW South Asian Society. Small upgrades, like new couches and computers, were made to the building last winter, but the space has not seen substantial changes in recent years.
In September of last year, a ceiling in the adjoining psychology department building caved in, making the basement unsafe for students. The space is now used for storage.
University spokesman Kurtis Hiatt said in an email that GW hopes to complete work in the more-than-a-century-old building by early 2016.
“The University continues to plan for renovations to the Multicultural Student Services Center and we hope to begin work over winter break and finish in early 2016. The scope of work completed will depend on priorities identified through discussions with students and staff, which are ongoing, and available University resources,” he said.
Hiatt declined to say how much the renovations are expected to cost. He also declined to say if any changes were made in the building since February, when the Student Association lobbied the University to make more substantial repairs to the building.
MSSC Director Michael Tapscott declined to comment for this story.
The paint inside the MSSC is badly chipped in some areas, and students aren’t allowed to use the basement because of unsafe conditions, though students who spend time in the building say these issues don’t prevent them from using the building in general.
Several students who use the MSSC regularly say they have not been part of any discussions with administrators about possible renovations. Miguel Angel Torhton, president of the Mexican Student Association, said he did not know whether there would be closures or changes in the MSSC that would affect his organization.
Torhton said he sees the renovations as a “matter of respect and justice” and said that any improvements to the MSSC are well-deserved.
“So many buildings on this campus are always being renovated and refurbished, and no one can deny that this building has been neglected,” he said.
Torhton said many people wrongly confuse the MSSC for an office, rather than student space, which could help to explain the lack of attention that the space receives.
“It’s more of a community center and it should be treated like one,” he said.
Vanessa Balladares, a sophomore and executive board member of the Organization of Latino American Students, said she was not aware of the renovation plans, but said that parts of the building could use repair.
“Those terrifyingly creepy stairs must be fixed,” she said.
Sen. Melissa Lawrence, CCAS-U, said she uses the MSSC as a member of the Black Student Union and also as a place to study. Lawrence said the renovations could be an opportunity to bring the building, which was built well before the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, in line with ADA regulations.
Lawrence said the decisions of what should be renovated need to be made based on the input of students who frequently use the space, a step some students said the University has not yet taken, though renovations are due to start in a little more than a month.
“It would be beneficial for people who spend every day working in the MSSC to speak with students and get a feel for what they would like and then bring those ideas to the administration,” Lawrence said. “I would welcome any renovations that were discussed with students who utilize the MSSC.”