Demolition of the Mattin Center has begun, making way for the construction of the new student center, which is expected to be completed by fall 2024. The Mattin Center had hosted the University’s arts scene since 2001, hosting the Swirnow Theatre, the Digital Media Centre, music and dance spaces, art studios and more. Resources that were once housed at the Mattin Center have been dispersed to the Homewood campus.
In interviews with the Newsletter, students reported that the construction made it more difficult to pursue the arts and the freedom to move around campus.
Renaming 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 classrooms.
“Special attention has been paid to moving 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 location of the Digital Media Center will offer similar programs and activities at the Student Center during the construction.”
However, many groups of students who used the Mattin Center regularly are disappointed with the new accommodations. Although the band’s instruments and gear are now stored at Shriver Hall, band practices take place at the Interfaith Center — a 12-minute walk away, according to junior and secretary of bands at Hopkins Snigdha Panda.
Panda expressed frustration 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 just told Mattin Center was leaving, and good luck. It was up to us to determine which places were available,” she said.
In an email to The News-Letter, senior Shane Williams shared that his classes have been impacted by the loss of Mattin. According to him, students studying electronic music production at Shaffer Hall struggled to fit all their recording equipment on the small tables. They also had to bring extra extension cords to use their technology.
“With the current closure of the Mattin Center, the quality of classrooms used by the music faculty has declined significantly,” Williams wrote. “It’s been unfortunate for them and for the students they’re trying to teach.”
He also noted that his dance team, Zinda, was struggling to find new practice spaces.
“The lack of on-campus dance studios has led to a distinct practice drought for many dance teams,” Williams wrote. “The mirrors that we typically use to clean up the movement and learn new parts are located either at Mattin or the Rec Center, which are no longer available to us at this time.”
According to junior Owen Welsh, who is a member of a capella group AllNighters and theater group Barnstormers, the two organizations are scrambling to find suitable practice spaces. He explained that because all theater groups were temporarily moved to the Arellano Theater in Levering Union, these groups did not have the opportunity to practice regularly on a stage and had difficulty 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; last week there was a piano at Shaffer 300, and this week there was none,” he said. “It’s quite instrumental for the music, having at least one tuned instrument. We have to bring our own piano, which is really big and hard to move.
Bands also had difficulty booking performance spaces. Requests to use Shriver have been denied even when placed months in advance. According to Welsh, all of these obstacles make it difficult for performance groups to survive.
“Some of the smaller groups might cease to exist,” he said. “If you’re the business leader of a group, it shouldn’t be a job to have to argue with administration to use a room, but that’s what it becomes.”
Accessibility and movement
Students have also complained that the construction has affected accessibility on campus, making it more difficult to access classes. Prior to demolition, Mattin served as a pedestrian-accessible route from N. Charles Street to campus. Now students like Williams, who lives in Charles Village, say they had to do everything possible to avoid construction.
“The issues of traversing campus should not be underestimated,” he wrote. “I realize that creating a path through the construction is probably not feasible as it is dangerous and a liability, but the whole first week of school I was late as it adds a few extra minutes to my Travel time.”
In an email to The News-Letter, senior Tina Nguyen said shifting construction boundaries made it difficult for her to find wheelchair accessible routes, which made it difficult for her to get to class on time.
“Even after finding an alternate path, that path ended up being blocked by construction work the next day,” she wrote. “If I expect the same path I used earlier that week to still be available, and it isn’t, I wouldn’t have time before class to walk around on campus to see what routes are still available.”
Rosen assured that the University considers accessibility issues 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 Services for Students with Disabilities. 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 building. However, Williams expressed concern over the change, arguing that making aisles more crowded during a pandemic could compromise the safety of the student body.
Since he will be graduating years before the new student center is completed, Williams feels particularly unhappy with how the construction is negatively affecting current students.
“It is a pain for most people I have spoken to, made all the more frustrating by the fact that construction will never benefit the current student body,” he wrote.
Despite these problems, some students adapt to construction. Charles Village resident and senior Adrian Tabassi, for example, said he doesn’t mind having to walk further down N. Charles Street to get to campus.
“It definitely makes walking to and from campus more difficult… [but] it’s not the end of the world,” he said.