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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Broken promise, loss for transparency in forgotten student vote

Published: September 23, 2011
Section: Featured, News

More than a year after administrators solicited student opinions for three options to replace the now-demolished Kalman Science Building, The Hoot has confirmed that administrators consider the construction project to be complete.

Instead of the proposed four-season garden, sand volleyball court or hybrid concept incorporating elements of both, the space, which sits between Gerstenzang and Kosow-Wolfson-Rosensweig science buildings, is now filled by a parking lot, with room for 22 cars, including only two handicap spaces.

The outdated website for Brandeis capital projects lists the “Science Complex Renewal Project Interim Landscape/Hardscape” as a “current project” to be “completed in Spring 2010,” but the plan for the project has gone unfulfilled, with the student vote, which supported the hybrid plan, effectively void.

Senior Vice President for Administration Mark Collins told The Hoot that the construction of the Shapiro Science Complex displaced much-needed parking, explaining the installation of the parking lot. He further cited handicap-parking considerations in the decision to install a parking lot close to the science complex.

Collins, who was not involved in the initial voting process, commented on the difficulty of planning a construction project based on a voting procedure. “I think that until you have a plan in place for the site, I think it’s difficult—it’s pie in the sky.”

Contacted early Thursday, Casey Russo, assistant project manager in the Office of Capital Projects, confirmed that the project was in fact considered finished by the administration.

That decision, unlike the original unprecedented student vote, was never communicated with students or even formally announced.

Former Student Union President Andy Hogan ’11 was unaware of the status of the project, writing in a recent e-mail to The Hoot, “As for the fact that only a parking lot is there right now, I’m sure the installation of the garden/courts got sidetracked because of the other aspects of a huge and expensive capital project venture. If the garden or volleyball courts are important to students, then students would advocate for them and I’m sure the administration would be responsive.”

In April 2010, the administration asked students to vote on the option for the project that they preferred. The vote received attention by student leadership and the student media at the time because of the administration’s apparent interest in reaching out and securing student input.

“That vote actually originated from the administration, not the Student Union and it was definitely a great step in soliciting student opinion,” Hogan said.

At the time of the vote, The Hoot editorial board responded cautiously. In its April 23, 2010, edition, the paper lauded the administration for soliciting student input, but it also questioned the importance of the entire issue: “While this is a noble quest, the fact remains that whether students choose volleyball or a garden is inconsequential when one considers the vast majority of decisions which have been decided without a student vote such as academic cuts, the closure (or not) of The Rose Art Museum and the creation of the Justice Brandeis Semester, to name a few.”

Even on what The Hoot called an “inconsequential” issue, the university administration did not follow through and keep the promise to implement the plan students chose.