Architects assess campus for change

Karalee Manis, Managing Editor

Workshop Architects, an interior design, research service and architecture company out of Milwaukee, visited Lakeland’s campus and, in addition to talking with students, faculty and staff, held a student-only meeting, on Wednesday, Feb. 10, to seek input about how the Campus Center could be improved.

Amin Mojfahedi, research designer, said, “People love Lakeland,” adding, however, that “there’s a lot of things that could be improved […] with physicality [and] programs.”

The small group of about 15-20 students in attendance were shown a banner that the team had hung on the wall of windows, labeled ‘Goals.’ This held categories including an ‘Innovation Hub, Upgrading Technology, More Activity (fun), a Place to Rest, Evening Activities, Updated Furniture and Healthier Dining Options.’

The students were then given a set of sticker dots and told to place them on the topics they felt most strongly concerning needed improvement. Once this process was done, the team looked over the banner and then engaged the students in an open discussion.

One student, Tyler Schaut, exercise science major and president of the Indoor/Outdoor Adventure Club, said he’d like “a specific place dedicated for a fire pit.”

He further explained that, being from the Upper Peninsula, he and his friends would often have social gatherings around an outdoor fire pit, a desired activity echoed by several other Lakeland students.  

Mojfahedi next directed his questioning to the topic of ‘More Activity (fun),’ asking what the current issue was on campus leading to this being a much-stickered category.

“I think the lack of fun is the problem,” said Megan Hellmer, sophomore psychology major.

Many other students agreed with her statement, commenting on not only the lack of activities, but the lack of activities worth attending.

When discussion was directed toward the current layout of the Campus Center, Hellmer said, the space out there is divided by that wall […] you don’t really have that much room to do things.”

The current design of the area was disliked by most students, either for not having enough places to congregate, for having uncomfortable furniture in both the Campus Center and 1862 Lounge, with some pieces likened to that of a funeral parlor, and for the lack of space when wanting to, for example, play some sort of game, which is hindered by the current layout.

Students also expressed frustration at the lack of outlets and available places to charge their phones, tablets and other devices, both in the Campus Center and around campus in general.

Another topic of discussion was ‘Healthier Dining Options.’ A concern expressed by many was that a lot the food provided by Lakeland is fried and carb-heavy.

Jacque Roerdink, senior sociology major, said, “The only other option if you don’t want to go through Dining Services […] is the Grill. And what’s in the Grill?” The unspoken answer to her question, understood by all, was that ordering from the Muskie Grill is basically ordering greasy fast food.

Though most students at the meeting live on-campus, there were several commuters, including Roerdink and Hellmer, who spoke of the cost of meals. For many commuters, it does not make financial sense to get the meal plan available to them, but it is also of concern that going through the line at Dining Services costs $8.50, even if you just get one thing. This is an excessive and undesirable expense in price and in quality.

“Commuters want something different than those who live on campus,” said Roerdink, who acknowledged that many of the food options available are catered to what a majority of students want; however, this is not the opinion or want of many on- and off-campus students wanting healthier food choices.

The discussion then shifted again to the many issues of space.

“We really don’t have a space to meet,” said Schaut of places for groups or clubs, like his Indoor/Outdoor Adventure Club, to hold their meetings.

As conversation continued on this topic and began to incorporate other similar ideas, Jan van den Kieboom, owner of Workshop Architects, said, “This is one of the first colleges I’ve been to that doesn’t have” a Google-type work environment center: a combination leadership center, student club activities center and student involvement area for all-student use.

The conversation again moved topics, next to the issue of weekend and evening activities.

Alister Kohls, junior sociology major, regarding students staying on campus during the weekend said, “There’s nothing to do, why would they stay?”

Much frustration was again expressed about the lack of activities and current inadequate campus features. The conversation flowed into the issues students had about the bar in the 1862 Lounge and drinking practices in general.

“It doesn’t help that we only have a functional bar three days a week,” said Kohls.

Concerning the lack of choices and voicing what many commuter students felt, Roerdink said, “We really don’t have a reason to stay [on campus] after classes,” adding, if we had “more options, the more likely we’d stay.”

This view was also extended to the lack of a working bar and what that means for Lakeland students, who often feel like they must leave campus in order to go to a ‘real’ bar.

Kohls said, “Unless we have a more active and responsible alcohol-related (bar) facility, the college is basically promoting negligence, drunken driving and poor choices.”

Speaking about previous years and the functionality of the former Pub, now turned 1862 Lounge, and the tied-in activities available on campus, Schaut said, “They used to have Pub parties and these were huge” among the student body.

Once the campus instituted the no minors after 9:30 p.m. rule, these parties ceased to exist. The general student sense of the 1862 Lounge was that it used to be fun, a place where there were events, like parties and comedians.

Now, like the Campus Center, the 1862 Lounge is “an under-functionalized space,” said Kohls.

Shifting gears once again, the design team moved on to another banner, this one titled ‘Programs.’ Many of these topics were seen as combinable within the Campus Center, like the ideas of a ‘Sit-down Restaurant, a Cool Coffee House and an Amazing Pub.’

By this point in the meeting, there was a general consensus of what students felt they needed beyond previous discussion: a place where students had their own space, separate from faculty or staff, which was just for them; a place where they could go and not be bothered by Success Coaches or other Lakeland employees – however well-intentioned they may be – and just relax away from these people.

This is especially a desire for commuters, who have no dorms or dedicated space to go back to between classes.

Though the tone was optimistic of what could happen, some students still remained doubtful on what will ultimately come of the meeting.

Once the research has been done by this company and designs are proposed, the obvious next issue the college will face will be whether or not they can finance such changes.