Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
October 3, 2023

Students report challenges amid construction of new student center

By CLAIRE GOUDREAU | September 22, 2021



With construction of the new student center underway, students can no longer access campus through the Mattin Center. 

Demolition of the Mattin Center has begun, making room for the construction of the new student center, which is expected to be completed by fall 2024. The Mattin Center had been home to the University’s arts scene since 2001, hosting Swirnow Theater, the Digital Media Center, music and dance spaces, art studios and more. The resources that were once housed in Mattin Center have been scattered across Homewood Campus. 

In interviews with The News-Letter, students reported that construction has made it harder to pursue the arts and move around campus freely.

Rehoming the arts

In an email to The News-Letter, Director of Media Relations Jill Rosen reported that the administration is working hard to replace lost spaces for organizations and classes.

“Careful consideration has been made for the relocation of Mattin programs,” she wrote. “Buildings like Levering, Shriver Hall, Ten East North Ave, the newly renovated Ralph S. O’Connor Center for Recreation and Well-Being and the new Digital Media Center location will provide similar Student Center programs and activities during construction.”

However, many student groups who regularly used the Mattin Center are disappointed with the new accommodations. Although band instruments and materials are now stored in Shriver Hall, band practices are held at the Interfaith Center — a 12 minute walk away, according to junior and Secretary of Bands at Hopkins Snigdha Panda. 

Panda expressed frustration at the fact that there is no longer a centralized space for the arts on campus, adding that there was very little guidance from the University after construction began.

“We were kind of just told that Mattin Center was going away, and good luck. It was left to us to figure out what spaces were available,” she said.

In an email to The News-Letter, senior Shane Williams shared that his courses have been hurt by the loss of Mattin. According to him, students studying electronic music production in Shaffer Hall have had trouble fitting all their recording equipment onto the smaller tables. They have also had to bring extra extension cords to use their technology.

“With the current closure of the Mattin Center, the quality of the classrooms the music faculty is using has diminished greatly,” Williams wrote. “This has been unfortunate for both them and the students they are attempting to teach.”

He also noted that his dance team, Zinda, is struggling to find new practice spaces.

“The lack of dance studios on campus has led to a distinct drought of practices for many dance teams,” Williams wrote. “The mirrors we typically would use to clean up movement and learn new pieces are located in either Mattin or the Rec Center, both of which are unavailable to us now.”

According to junior Owen Welsh, who is a member of the a capella group AllNighters and the theater group Barnstormers, both organizations are scrambling to find suitable practice spaces. He explained that because all of the theater groups have been temporarily moved to Arellano Theater in Levering Union, those groups have not had the opportunity to practice on a stage regularly and have had difficulties sharing practice spaces equally.

Welsh also noted that even seemingly simple needs, like knowing where the pianos are, have not been met by the administration.

“The pianos keep moving around; last week there was a piano in Shaffer 300, and this week there wasn’t,” he said. “It’s pretty instrumental to music, having at least one instrument tuned. We have to bring our own piano, which is really big and hard to move.”

Groups have also had difficulties booking performance spaces. Requests to use Shriver have been denied even when they were placed months in advance. According to Welsh, all of these hurdles are making it hard for performance groups to survive.

“Some of the smaller groups may stop existing,” he said. “If you’re the business manager of a group, it shouldn’t be a job to have to argue with administration to use one room, but that’s what it’s becoming.”

Accessibility and movement

Students have also complained that construction has hurt accessibility on campus, making it harder to get to class. Prior to demolition, Mattin served as an accessible route for pedestrians to get from N. Charles Street to campus. Now, students like Williams, who lives in Charles Village, report having to go out of their way to avoid construction.

“The issues with campus traversal are not to be understated,” he wrote. “I realize that creating a path through the construction is probably not feasible as it is dangerous and a liability, but the entire first week of school, I was late because it adds a few extra minutes to my travel time.”

In an email to The News-Letter, senior Tina Nguyen reported that the construction’s changing borders make it hard for her to find wheelchair-accessible routes, which has made it difficult for her to arrive to classes on time.

“Even after I found an alternative path, that path ended up being blocked off by construction the next day,” she wrote. “If I’m expecting the same path I used earlier that week to still be available, and it’s not, I wouldn’t have time before class to wander around campus to see which routes are still available.”

Rosen assured that the University is taking matters of accessibility into account during the construction process, explaining that planning and design consultants and University staff are included in construction decisions. She encouraged any students with questions or concerns to contact Student Disability Services. She also noted that accessible transportation can be arranged for students with disabilities. 

Most students who would have entered campus through the Mattin Center now enter through the Beach, which is located just north of the construction. However, Williams expressed an anxiety over this change, arguing that making walkways more crowded during a pandemic may jeopardize the safety of the student body. 

Since he will graduate years before the new student center is finished, Williams feels especially dissatisfied with how the construction is negatively affecting current students.

“It’s a pain for most people I have talked to, made all the more frustrating by the fact that the construction will never benefit the current student body,” he wrote.

Despite these issues, some students are adapting to the construction. Senior and Charles Village resident Adrian Tabassi, for example, reported that he did not mind having to walk further down N. Charles Street to get onto campus.

“It definitely makes walking to and from campus more difficult... [but] it’s not the end of the world,” he said.

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