By Angelia Roggie
As students make the journey from their dorm rooms or townhouses to the academic buildings for their classes, there is one building students and visitors can’t help but notice.
Approaching Plassmann Hall is like witnessing the degradation of old age before your eyes. The windows look dirty, the screens are falling apart or nonexistent and its brick surface and silver lettering appear to be losing luster. In fact, everything seems ready to crumble.
Inside, the building is reminiscent of 1960s décor, and one can see where attempts have been made to keep essential parts together. Does the step leading up to the first floor held together by a piece of plywood sound familiar to anyone?
Not to mention, the classrooms in the older part of Plassmann Hall need some serious space updates. The classrooms are often too hot and too small. Students have to squeeze, not only into a tiny space of a classroom, but into desks meant for middle school children. It pains me to watch a 6-foot student try to be comfortable and ready to learn when his or her legs are squashed underneath a 2-in-1, desk/chair combo. How can a teacher even create meaningful interactions with their students when they feel awkward for moving too much or fear accidentally looming over a student?
Plassmann Hall needs a facelift, not only for students, but for faculty and the future of the university in general. More than 46 professors and their offices are crammed in the basement of Plassmann, not including the School of Education wing, which adds another 26, and the second floor department of modern languages, adding another 10 to the count. Is this how we treat our School of Arts and Sciences at a liberal arts-based university?
Faculty members need to feel like they matter and have offices in a healthy environment where they can create special lectures that inspire Bonaventure students. If someone pushed me away and put me in a space the size of a closet with barely any windows to do my job, I would not be too pleased with my career choice or feel respected.
Updating the center of general education courses for the university could also mean more students and interest in St. Bonaventure for the admissions office. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve given a tour as a student ambassador and seen the disgusted faces of prospective students and their parents as they see the building they will be spending most of their time in.
Often, I feel the need to explain away Plassmann Hall and focus on other features, because I’m scared its condition could make them think we are outdated.
During one particular tour, an alumnus from the late 1980s told me, “They should have flattened this building when I was here.” It hurt to hear a fellow Bonnie say this, but I couldn’t blame him for his point. Plassmann Hall has been around since 1959 with the School of Business addition added in 1989, according to university archives. However, looking at past pictures, it appears the main building has not had major updates in a while, except for the new concrete in front and the siding on the platform just added this year.
Plassmann needs to be fixed immediately and renovations should have been done before building the business building. I can only imagine how much worse Plassmann Hall will look once its state-of-the-art, $15 million neighbor is finished.
However, administration has made it a point that Plassmann Hall is next in line to receive great changes.
“The renovation of academic facilities are an administrative priority,” wrote Brenda McGee, vice president of finance and administration, in an email. “This includes both Plassmann and Murphy Halls (similar to the facilities changes we have already accomplished for science – De La Roche and Walsh, business – the new school of business and the addition to the library).”
McGee also wrote renovation takes careful planning and involvement of the appropriate constituents, and thus, will take several months to complete. She said the funding for most renovations, like those of Walsh, the library wing, and the new school of business, comes from donations, and she expects the same will be true for Plassmann.
“Tuition and fees fund the ongoing operation of campus but are insufficient for capital improvements, such as renovations,” McGee wrote.
Why hasn’t Plassmann been a priority for a while now? It is one of the most important buildings on campus, but it’s been ignored to heighten the status of other areas of campus. I bet most students want the building they spend most of their Bonaventure education in to be the best before the university moves on to other projects. After all, you should fix what’s already broken before you make plans to build on brand new things.
Why has the school now decided after two multimillion dollar projects, the William E. & Ann L. Swan Business Center and the athletic strategic plan, to finally give Plassmann the treatment it deserves? And how do they anticipate getting donations for Plassmann when they are already asking for two other major projects? I think alumni and friends are going to get annoyed by all the requests for cash. Who knows what will happen to Plassmann then?
I love St. Bonaventure and the education I am getting here. I don’t blame the administration for getting caught up in their great plans for the school, but Plassmann Hall has been crying out for help for far too long. The administration and others need to step up and update Plassmann before they get lost in the parade of other things that are coming.
Seriously, a great liberal arts university should have a beautiful liberal arts structure to match it.
Plassmann is nowhere near that, but it needs to be.
Bonaventure students, faculty and alumni have earned it.