The future of the current Howard Thurman Center space is up in the air as the HTC Space Repurposing Committee analyzes 11 proposals regarding how to use the space once the HTC officially moves to 808 Commonwealth Ave.
The HTC is set to vacate its space in the basement of the George Sherman Union to its newly renovated space in January, BU spokesperson Colin Riley said.
Hilary Caron, associate director of Residence Life and chair of the HTC Space Repurposing Committee, said there is no deadline for making a decision on who will replace the HTC in the GSU.
“I would hope that we are able to make a final recommendation to [Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore] by the end of the semester,” Caron said, “if not by January.”
The Dean of Students Office sent a request to students in May 2019 for reimaginings of the space’s use.
Katherine Cornetta, the assistant to the dean of students, said 11 student groups or individuals submitted proposals prior to the October submission deadline.
The HTC Repurposing Committee consists of members from groups such as Residence Life and the Provost Office, Cornetta said. The committee can choose either one proposal or fuse multiple proposals.
“The committee could be looking at [the submissions] and say, ‘Oh there’s a couple of ideas that could be put together in one idea,’” Cornetta said. “Or they could come to Dean Elmore and say, ‘This idea seems to be the best idea.’”
After the committee makes their decision, Cornetta said the next step would be to submit a proposal to Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore who can take it to the final review with the space allocation division of BU.
Caron said preliminary discussion with Elmore has started, but the committee has not made a formal proposal yet.
The proposals ranged from ideas concerning the expansion of study spaces to the creation of another space, similar to HTC, for students to connect with each other, Cornetta said. A common theme among submissions was the inclusion of sustainability actions.
“Even if the idea wasn’t about sustainability, many of them addressed how they would keep the space environmentally responsible, which was really cool,” Cornetta said, “to see students address that without even being asked.”
The committee doesn’t search for a specific set of criteria when reviewing submissions, Caron said, but they emphasize some general objectives.
“We’re just trying to make sure that whatever ends up being there is student-focused, student-centered and that it isn’t already happening in some other place,” Caron said.
As Elmore does not have the final vote of approval, it is possible that departments or other groups sent proposals directly to the space allocators, Cornetta said.
“We only accepted submissions from students,” Cornetta said. “However, there is a larger process and we are hopeful that it remains a student space and it is one of these ideas that students presented to us.”
As the space in the GSU was designed with the HTC in mind, students have expressed interest in maintaining HTC objectives for the group that takes over the GSU space, Cornetta said.
Caron said the submissions highlighted ideas about having a communicatory, open space.
“The proposals vary in what they’re looking for,” Caron said, “but overall, I think the big theme in all of them is connections.”
Riley said he suspects many people are looking to use the space in the GSU.
“Since we’re a large university, there’s usually a lot of competition,” Riley said.
The BU Center for Gender, Sexuality and Activism submitted one of the 11 proposals.
Faith Puleikis, director of CGSA, said the CGSA office can feel very isolating because it is secluded next to the end of the Terrier Card Office in the basement of the GSU.
The organization hopes to acquire the old HTC space so they can host club and alumni events, allowing students to expand their well of resources, Puleikis said.
“We have resources everywhere on campus, so it’s so important for people to be able to find us,” Puleikis said. “And we really hope the university will show its dedication to prioritizing these students.”
Jie Xi, a graduate student in the College of Communication, said he thought another space for studying and general seating would be most useful to him.
“I think it would be better, for me, I think, to have more learning space,” Xi said. “Maybe a larger space for students to have tables and more [wall outlets] for studying.”
Katrina Pierre, a junior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said she would prefer to have more study space.
“I personally am waiting for a space on campus open 24 hours, if I’m being honest,” Pierre said. “Just for study spaces outside of the dormitories because sometimes it can be very loud, especially in Warren Towers.”