University of Richmond officials are mulling over the idea of relocating the Career Development Center to a more central location on campus, a move that would afford additional space for student job interviews, other career services and increase accessibility.
In a statement released to The Collegian late last night, Brian Eckert, director of the university's media and public relations, said the CDC would remain at its current location at least for the remainder of the academic year, which ran counter to widespread rumors stating that construction in the Tyler Haynes Commons — where the CDC was to be located — would begin as early next week.
Plans for moving the CDC to the Commons have been discussed but have yet to be approved, the statement said. It was not immediately clear when administrators were aiming to present preliminary plans for the renovations.
"The possibility of moving the CDC was being explored as a near-term measure, given the general consensus that larger and better space for the CDC would improve a key service to students," Eckert wrote in the statement.
It had been rumored that Commons rooms 313 and 315 — used for more than 500 student events each year — were prime targets for the center's new offices, a move that would have forced student groups including Panhellenic Council, Westhampton College Government Association, Intervarsity and sororities and fraternities, among other groups, to immediately find a new location for their activities.
Student leaders subsequently voiced concerns that student meeting space — already limited on campus — would be eliminated without their consent.
"Rooms 313 and 315 in the Commons will remain available for normal use throughout this year," Eckert wrote. "Everyone on campus recognizes the need for adequate student meeting space, and providing the best service to students is always going to be the primary consideration in any decision about the location of the CDC or the allocation of space in the Commons."
Ashley Prime, Panhellenic Council's vice president of recruitment, said she found out Monday afternoon that she should plan to find an alternate room for January's sorority rush activities because the room would no longer be available for meetings after Nov. 14. She declined to name her source on-the-record.
"I've been told not to make concrete plans either way," Prime said last night. "I've basically been wasting time."
She said last night she had still been under the impression that Room 313 was not available for use, and that she had not been informed about the university's statement.
Rush involves nearly 200 people, including pledges and participating sorority members, making it necessary to reserve a large room, she said.
"This is my first really negative experience," Prime said. "It has been a hassle, and it's probably something we need to work on. I'm flexible enough that I could find another room if I needed to, but I would like to be told."
The possibility of moving the CDC to the Commons is part of a larger process led by Steve Bisese, vice president for student affairs, to evaluate the Commons and how it can best serve students. Eckert stressed that students would be part of any decision process regarding the Commons. Bisese was not immediately available for comment.
John Hoogakker, associate vice president for University Facilities, said he had begun preliminary planning on moving the CDC to the Commons for the restart of school in January, but that the plans were never submitted for approval.
"It was an option we tried to hold open for a while, but frankly it didn't prove to be a good option and we don't intend to do it," he said. "We did some work on it, and we said, 'This isn't going to work. This is pushing it.' It was never submitted to the administration for consideration."
Leslie Stevenson, director of the CDC, said discussions about the relocation of the Commons had begun before she arrived to Richmond in 2006.
"We hear from students all the time that they find it difficult to get to our location," Stevenson said. "We have to look at what's most convenient for all of the students we serve."
Students with disabilities are also prevented from using the center's services because Richmond Hall does not have an elevator, Stevenson said.
"We've had some concerns from employers who feel that the University of Richmond's interview space ... is out of par with other campuses," Stevenson said, adding that it was unlikely employers would eliminate students because of that reason. "But I don't think it makes a good first impression for a University of Richmond student to potential employers."
Stevenson said some students found the CDC's location inconvenient while others found the building aesthetically displeasing. The center also contains only four interview rooms, one of which often cannot be used because it is located next to a restroom, which generates noise and distracts students and employers during meetings, Stevenson said.
Representatives from WCGA wrote a letter to the university's board of trustees, which met last weekend, urging them to consider larger-scale renovations to the Commons building instead of allocating smaller sums of money for lesser projects.
Top priorities include increased meeting space for student organizations, more food options and full accessibility, Bridget Needham, president of WCGA, wrote in the letter.
"Students understand that the more dramatic the change, the more time it will take, and students are willing to wait," Needham wrote. "We would discourage any projects from taking place that could potentially be erased by future larger projects."
Three rooms on campus are spacious enough to hold large groups: Keller Hall, the North Court Reception Room and Commons Room 313.