The Oberlin Review

Wilder Hall Renovation Begins, Citing Student Surveys

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Wilder Hall Renovation Begins, Citing Student Surveys

Wilder Hall lobby was renovated over Winter Term. The space had numerous walls knocked down in an effort to give students more community spaces to engage with.

Wilder Hall lobby was renovated over Winter Term. The space had numerous walls knocked down in an effort to give students more community spaces to engage with.

Photo courtesy of Oberlin College

Wilder Hall lobby was renovated over Winter Term. The space had numerous walls knocked down in an effort to give students more community spaces to engage with.

Photo courtesy of Oberlin College

Photo courtesy of Oberlin College

Wilder Hall lobby was renovated over Winter Term. The space had numerous walls knocked down in an effort to give students more community spaces to engage with.

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Students returning to campus this week have been greeted with a revamped Wilder Hall lobby, which will undergo further changes as renovations continue. The lobby was enlarged and, according to a letter sent out by President Carmen Ambar and Student Senator and College junior Kameron Dunbar, “This area will be fitted with a new TV, speakers, and other entertainment options that will allow open music and entertainment streaming.” Additionally, a competition will be held to select some new iconic furniture, à la womb chairs. Changes ensued after Student Senate and the administration reviewed student feedback on campus life.

Last semester, Senate surveyed Oberlin students about their experience on campus, including academics and social life. Close to 1,100 students responded and the results indicated to a lack of campus community. Believing the feedback emerged from a dearth of accessible community spaces, Senate brought the issue to the Student Union and senior administrators, who collaboratively discussed the issue and routinely circled back to Wilder.

At the same time, Senate, seeking to increase student-trustee contact, devised a plan to bring visiting trustees on a guided tour of Oberlin dorms and living spaces.

“The goal was to show trustees — who may not have been in a dorm for 20 years — what living conditions are really like,” said Dunbar, who initially proposed the idea. “I’m thrilled [with] how [the tours] went.”

As a result of the tour and recent discussions around community spaces, Wilder was selected for a quick facelift over the winter break.

Dunbar saw Wilder as a test run for future collaborations with the school’s administration including, potentially, organized transportation to and from Cleveland to reduce campus isolation.

According to Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo, the financing for the project came out of the existing budget for student life. Like Student Senate, Raimondo saw the process of choosing Wilder as a loose, informal proposal that had been in the works for some time, but received new life as a result of Senate’s trustee tours.

“After the tours, trustees talked about the conversations they had with students and what they saw,” Raimondo said. “That caused me to think, ‘What were some things that we can do to make a difference now?’ If the tours hadn’t happened, I don’t know if we’d be doing the remodel.”

Raimondo highlighted the support she received from the trustees to proceed with the project, but she also emphasized that trustees had little relationship to the actual plan.

“Trustees aren’t usually involved in any building decisions; that’s not their role,” Raimondo said.

Raimondo discussed the role that student groups, such as the Student Union Board, had in advocating for the Wilder lobby’s remodeling. However, the final decision for the renovation was under the jurisdiction of the senior administration and the Office of the President.

Although Senate has been unable to convince the trustees to allow for student representation on their board, Dunbar insisted that “the board is listening to students,” adding that the Wilder changes and the tours were perfect examples.

“I want people to trust the process,” Dunbar added. “Senate is on path to showing that it can actively represent students. The board looks five years out, senior administration looks to every day. Those are the people who are most prepared for our concerns. Senate is trying to push itself into the picture and bring students with them.”

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2 Responses to “Wilder Hall Renovation Begins, Citing Student Surveys”

  1. Jonathan Arak '88 on February 12th, 2018 6:39 PM

    Are there more photos of Wider Reno?

  2. Paul T Levinson '80 on February 23rd, 2018 8:52 PM

    Hello, OR,
    Thank you for this article on the rapidly approved renovation of the Wilder Hall Lobby and Common Spaces. This cannot be the first time that Oberlin’s Trustees have been told that being contained in a small town of 8,000 people for 35 out of 52 weeks a year can come to feel limited, can it? In fairness, Cleveland has had VAST improvements since my years at the College, but still…. I came away from Oberlin feeling that both the College and the Conservatory did a fine job bringing the “real world” to campus, and I was a New York City person during college. Even so, the same streets, single movie house, walkable restaurant, passable pizza and bakery, etc. could, and did, become frightfully monotonous after one had been in town for a full school year.

    Having been an alumnus for almost 40 years, I am very impressed with how the Wilder Hall project was identified, conceived and executed in what must have been record-setting time in the world of small liberal arts colleges of which Oberlin is such a distinguished and long-standing member.

    On another angle, as an English and Sociology Major who wrote many, many papers in the snack bar in Wilder’s ground level fueled by coffee of dubious age but, thankfully, reliable availability, I feel the need to ask why so many sentences and references in the article are missing common parts of speech like Articles (i.e. THE Senate, instead of just “Senate,” as well as a couple of references to “Trustees,” instead of THE Trustees – that is the Governing Body of most Non Profit institutions, not a reference to a group of people serving on that Body.) Has the, IMHO, absurd belief that Briefer is ALWAYS better, tense agreement and spelling are bonuses….ideas both born and, quickly, destroyed, on the Web, plus our now permanent access to communication via our technology, overcome Oberlin’s Long Insistence that writing be both Tight AND Grammtical? I’m disposed to cut the New York Times slack on weak editing given its scale and general excellence, but feel the Review, primarily serving an Educational community as it does, should try to do better with its editing and syntactical efforts.

    Yes, I am aware that I sound like the grandparents of today’s students, but thank you for asking!

    I DO wish you well….but am wedded now and, perhaps, forever to print media presenting its content correctly to its readers. The Times, the New Yorker, Esquire, usually the Washington Post and maybe one or two more have not conceded the grammatical landscape, YET….but the future is not encouraging.

    Thank you again!

    Paul T Levinson
    Ober!in (College), Class of 1980

Established 1874.