Zach Slotkin: Marvin Center renovations can go a long way in building community

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When I first toured GW as a high school junior, I was amazed by the Marvin Center. I could imagine myself sitting at a table with my friends, grabbing some pretzel nuggets from Auntie Anne’s and cracking open a textbook to study at one of the numerous tables in Columbian Square.

And then I toured other schools. I saw the home-like atmosphere of Georgetown’s Healey Family Student Center, the plethora of dining options at Boston University’s Union Court and the extremely comfortable Adirondack chairs scattered throughout Northeastern University’s Curry Student Center. Suddenly, the overpriced sushi at J Street and the cluttered seating in Columbian Square seemed much less worthy of my praise.

This month, Student Association President Andie Dowd announced that the first floor of the Marvin Center will be renovated. Now, I’m optimistic about what the Marvin Center could look like: a place where students could meet to hang out – not just a place where they go when their Colonial Cash runs out and they’re forced to spend some of their dining dollars.

Dowd described some of the planned renovations, including the addition of couches to replace the long tables in Columbian Square is a great idea, and one that will definitely improve the atmosphere of the Marvin Center. Even just getting rid of the old, sticky tables covered in old photos would be a good start.

But the renovations shouldn’t stop there. In order to make the Marvin Center more like a traditional student union, as Dowd hopes to, the University needs to make it a fun place for students to unwind after a long day of classes.

Many colleges, including many of GW’s peer schools, have these options. Washington University in St. Louis’s student center, the Danforth University Center, features an entire arcade with games, a pool table and big TVs for students to play video games. Vanderbilt University’s student center has a room where students can challenge each other in a nine-ball or foosball match and socialize while sitting in colorful, retro-looking couches.

The Marvin Center, which is the closest thing GW has to a student union, lacks an area for students to have fun. The University should consider adding pool tables, air hockey tables, or similar recreational games to entice students to hang out at the Marvin Center. In fact, the Marvin Center used to have a bowling alley and arcade area called Hippodrome, but removed it in 2011.

It also may not be a bad idea to add more food venders to the first floor of the Marvin Center. Since GW’s contract with Sodexo expires following this school year, the school has the perfect opportunity to do so. Georgetown University’s Leavey Center has almost a dozen dining options. Boston University’s student union has 11, including everything from Asian food to an entire restaurant devoted to grilled cheese and mac and cheese. Auntie Anne’s and Coffee Stop simply aren’t enough to get most students to stay at the Marvin Center for longer than half an hour.

It may seem petty, but also changing the music playlist in the Marvin Center would make a big difference in the first floor’s atmosphere. The same tired, slow Daughtry and Lana Del Rey songs echo through the Marvin Center every time I walk in. Adding more modern and upbeat music to replace the early-2000s soft rock usually playing would be a smart move. The school could even ask students to design the playlist and pick songs that college students listen to and enjoy.

The Marvin Center opened in 1970 as a hub for student life. But the lack of recreational activities and fun things for students to do there show that it clearly hasn’t served its purpose. Now, GW has the opportunity to make the Marvin Center an exciting place.

If done correctly, the facelift could give students one more reason to stay on campus after class and on the weekend, or at least give them a place to go between classes. At an urban school, maintaining a sense of campus community is key. Transforming the Marvin Center could do just that.

Zach Slotkin, a freshman majoring in international affairs, is a Hatchet opinions writer. Want to respond to this piece? Submit a letter to the editor.

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