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Central Library renovations to create graduate student spaces scheduled for this summer

A&S Deans offices move from Kirkland to Buttrick; unhappy grad students push back

+Entrance+to+Buttrick+graduate+student+carrels+fourth+floor.+%28Photo+by+Emma+Mattson%29
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Central Library renovations to create graduate student spaces scheduled for this summer

 Entrance to Buttrick graduate student carrels fourth floor. (Photo by Emma Mattson)

Entrance to Buttrick graduate student carrels fourth floor. (Photo by Emma Mattson)

Entrance to Buttrick graduate student carrels fourth floor. (Photo by Emma Mattson)

Entrance to Buttrick graduate student carrels fourth floor. (Photo by Emma Mattson)

Emma Mattson, Assistant Campus Editor

Library renovations scheduled to run from May 13 to August 1 this summer will provide approximately 265 graduate students with private working space, according to Central Library Director Kasia Gonnerman. In anticipation of the new space, the graduate student carrels on the fourth floor of Buttrick Hall will be vacated to make room for the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) Dean’s Office.

Construction in Central Library will include renovating carrels and refurbishing private offices on multiple floors. In addition, the remodel will create five new reservable group study rooms, several small meeting rooms for up to four people, and a graduate student lounge, Gonnerman said.

The library hopes to offer 165 carrels and 51 shared private offices to graduate students in fall 2019, Gonnerman said.

“In our many conversations with students, we have heard that having private space, group meeting space, quiet space, and lounging/socializing space is important to them. Our plans incorporate all of these elements,” Gonnerman wrote in an email to the Hustler.

These library renovations complement the decision to move the College of Arts and Sciences Dean’s Offices out of Kirkland Hall and into Buttrick. A&S administration, which serves 58% of Vanderbilt’s undergraduates, is the only college whose administration is housed separately from its faculty, Dean of Arts and Science John Geer said.

“I want the College of Arts and Science to interact with students and faculty, not with the upper administration, and that will be facilitated by moving it,” Geer said.

These renovations form part of the University’s long-term investment in the humanities, which includes plans to remodel Calhoun, Garland, and other humanities-focused buildings in the next ten years, Geer said.

Graduate students are expected to vacate Buttrick’s fourth floor in early May so that construction on the A&S offices can begin. The new Central Library graduate student spaces won’t be available until August, however. This leaves many humanities graduate students without a place to do their work over the summer, A&S graduate student Michael Chiedozie Uhuegbu said.

“It’s a fight. We have to fight to protect something that we think belongs to us: having this space to breathe, sit down, and write a dissertation versus them wanting to do what they think is best for us,” Uhuegbu said.

Discontent graduate students formed the Graduate Student Carrels Committee (GSCC), which includes representatives from most of the affected departments. Together they aim to communicate their concerns and requests for the next space, said graduate student Hannah Ingersoll, who serves as a liaison from the Graduate Student Council to the GSCC.

Graduate students need FERPA-compliant spaces where they can hold private meetings, since they work as instructors and TAs. They are expected to work on weekends and during breaks, so they need 24/7 access to their own personal space– a feature they had in Buttrick but might not have in Central Library, Ingersoll said.

Central Library is currently discussing possibilities of extending its hours, but no official decision has been reached, Gonnerman said.

The library will remain open during construction, and A&S will reserve classrooms for graduate student use over the summer before the space opens to help fill this gap, Gonnerman said.

But not all graduate students are convinced that the transition will be a smooth one.

“I think if you had to put the mood right now, it’s that graduate students are extremely anxious and unfortunately the communication we’ve had with the administration has not quelled that anxiety. In fact, it’s made it worse,” Ingersoll said.

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About the Writer
Emma Mattson, Campus Assistant Editor

Emma Mattson ('21) writes for the Campus section of the Vanderbilt Hustler. She studies Communication Arts, Spanish, and German in the College of Arts...

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