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Refreshing Renovations

Campus | September 23, 2013

This past summer, Tufts facilities began renovating Tufts’ three campuses with over 60 renovation projects.  Construction teams have been hard at work building a new sheep barn for the Veterinary School in Grafton, restoring the Biomedical Research and Public Health building, and updating facilities here at the Medford/Somerville campus.  Much like those of us trying to begin the school year with a fresh start, Tufts, too, is starting the year with its best foot forward.

Returning sophomores and incoming freshman were pleased to discover that Wren and Haskell, which are both divided into ten person suites, received some redecoration and refurbishment this summer. Built in 1964 and 1965 respectively, Wren and Haskell were due for a few cosmetic changes. Nicer, gray paneling has been added to common room walls and alcoves with a cushioned seats were built in. The old, dilapidated couches have also been replaced with new, pleather couches that are apparently stain-proof. The common room also received modern circular tables in addition to the new couches and walls. The bathrooms of both buildings were refitted with new tiling, fixtures, and lighting, which the residents of Wren hope will help to solve the cockroach problem that concerned many of them before moving in this year.

Sophomore Sarah Brown said that Wren “makes [her] feel like [she] is in a hotel.” While Wren Hall was a popular choice for sophomores before the renovations, now that the renovations have been finished the residents claim that they have gotten the best of both worlds.  Sophomore Kyle McGrail says, “I chose Wren because I wanted to live in a suite with my friends, even though it wasn’t the nicest building on campus. The new common rooms and bathrooms have made it incredible though. We thought that living in the basement was going to be one of the worst parts of Wren, but it has been completely scaled up.”

Halligan Hall, which housed the athletic offices before the Steve Tisch Sports and Fitness Center opened last year, is also being repurposed. The building is being remodeled to accommodate the needs of the Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE) students who have taken it over. Halligan, which was constructed in 1956, offers 10,000 sq. ft. that can be turned into classrooms and offices.  ECE Chair Eric Miller claims that the renovations will “greatly improve the learning environment for students both due to the facelift for the classrooms as well as the introduction of new spaces for meeting and interaction.” The addition of faculty and graduate student space on the second floor is aimed at providing a more integrated environment for the ECE departments and the Computer Science department. Chairman Miller hopes that this centralized space will allow for “far more interaction leading to advances in all aspects of our program.” Furthermore, he added that the renovations and construction being done to Halligan 102 will provide “much needed space for hosting seminars, workshops, and similar events.”

Tufts Sailing Team Boathouse, 1963

The Tufts Sailing team, one of Tufts’ most successful and competitive teams, recently received a new boathouse on Mystic Valley Lake. The last boathouse, which was constructed in 1948, had become essentially antiquated and was not befitting the internationally competitive team that recently won their first National Match Racing Championship. The new Lawrence S. Bacow and Adele Fleet Bacow Sailing Pavilion, named after the former President of Tufts and his wife, will allow the team to increase its appeal to prospective sailors and enable it to compete on an even higher level than previously possible.

The most noticeable renovation, and also the most frustrating for some, is the remodeling of Cohen Auditorium, the largest lecture hall on campus. Cohen is the only venue on campus capable of holding large classes like Bio 13, or staging performances like SOC’s “Stay in Yo Lane” last year. By the end of October, Cohen will boast an updated ceiling and floor, fresh paint, new seats, and an improved stage. The stage and some of the new seats will be handicap-accessible. Although it is inconvenient for those who were scheduled to have class in Cohen, the renovations will offer Tufts a better-equipped facility in which Tufts students can showcase their talents and learn.

In many ways, Cohen the face of Tufts. It is often one of the first buildings that prospective students and their parents see when they visit, and the building in which many orientation meetings take place. Admissions stopped bringing campus tours to Cohen last year because, according to Dean Lee Coffin, the “degree of wear and tear that had come to characterize [the building] suggested an overly worn atmosphere.” Dean Coffin is confident the new renovations will “erase the worry” that prospective students will get a poor representation of the facilities that Tufts offers. Having a newly renovated space will illustrate Tufts’ commitment to having modern, state-of-the-art facilities. These renovations are expected to be completed by early October.

The recent updates around the various campuses are not detracting from the distinctive Tufts aesthetic. Rather, these projects are helping Tufts retain its suburban charm while also developing it as a modern research institution. In this way, students will not have to compromise between the resources and facilities of a larger metropolitan university and the classic feel of a university rooted in its community.