Decker renovation funds should be used elsewhere

The fence surrounding the Decker College Center construction site has closed off the pathway between Whiteford Hall and the Center, raising concerns of accessibility. (Marya Kuratova / McDaniel Free Press).

McDaniel College is currently in the process of remodeling Decker College Center, adding an amphitheatre and modern design to renovate the building into something more attractive to prospective students. The project, in its entirety, will cost approximately $10 million. Many students have voiced their complaints, hesitancies, and (quite plainly) confusion as to why the building is even being remodeled in the first place. Of all the buildings on campus that could use a modern touch, is Decker really the priority?

The truth of the matter is no. An alumna and Board of Trustees member donated $5 million of the funds, and an additional $2 million was donated by various other trustees, many of which are also alumni. This demonstrates just how out of touch the alumni, Board of Trustees, and College as a whole are with the actual needs of the student body. What other things could $10 million cover?

They could have renovated Hill Hall, the central academic building on campus. Any student who has ever dabbled in the McDaniel Plan has likely taken a course (or several) in Hill Hall. The building is old and small with easily destroyed carpeted floors, cramped desks, and chalkboards with so much residual use on them, it is sometimes difficult to make the writing on them legible at all. They could have provided desks that are actually large enough for adults and don’t necessitate being right-handed. They could have swapped the blackboards out for whiteboards, smart boards, or even just cleaner replacements. They could swap the carpet out for something more durable, or simply less dirty.

They could have renovated the sidewalks. McDaniel has often received criticism for being an inaccessible campus to wheelchair-bound students. Several buildings are near completely unreachable, or dangerous to reach. Only a handful of rooms in Daniel Maclea Hall can even be occupied by these students. Reaching the Wellness Center involves traveling in the actual street. The path from Whiteford Hall to Merritt Hall involves either a service elevator (with a well-known lag) or a complete lap of campus. That we have resources for students with learning disabilities (the Student Academic Support Services Office) is a hallmark of the College’s intent, but the complete lack of ramps, elevators in all dormitory buildings, and handicap buttons for doorways, demonstrates how flimsy that intent actually is.

They could have renovated the residence halls already in existence. Instead of admitting so many students and having to buy out the entirety of Pennsylvania Avenue, they could focus on making the living situation of the current students better. The decision to turn doubles into triples, lounges into quads, and placing first-years in whatever building could hold them was practical considering their numbers, but ridiculous considering the quality of life they are supposedly expected to be carrying into their first year of college.

Juniors and seniors have been exiled to Pennsylvania Avenue, known for being one of the sketchier neighborhoods past dark. First-years are living practically on top of one another. In the case of triples and quads, they are. The money could just have easily been spent improving the spatial usage of these buildings. They could have made rooms that reasonably house the students, continued to provide lounges for socialization, and updated the communal bathrooms to accommodate their heavy traffic. Say, for example, having more than one drain in the middle of the bathroom floor in Rouzer Hall.

The point being, we all came to this college for a reason. Everyone’s reason was different. The same can and will be said for the incoming classes in future years. Some of us liked the small class sizes. Some of us liked the amount of financial aid we received. Some of us thought the campus was cute. But I can assure the alumni and College, no one came here for Decker—and no one is going to. It would be better to spend the money on improving life once you are a student—not pulling the rug once enrolled.