The Campaign: The Campus 'Family Room'
$25M for the Campus Commons

This year, Chimes , the student-run journalistic arm (read: newspaper) of Calvin College, celebrated its 100th birthday. The Chimes staff was happy to mark the signal year by continuing to put out the paper, and staffers did so from the same cramped office in the Commons Annex that Chimes staffs have used since 1979.

There are a lot of memories there, said Allison Graff '07, a co-editor of the paper in its centennial year. "If you lift up a certain ceiling panel, you'll be able to see notes written on the pipes by former Chimes editors," she confided.

The space, which consists of one large and one small office, is spacious enough to hold all of the memories, but too cramped to hold all of the staff. There isn't room for all of the photographers or a computer for every editor or any place for the separate section staffs to huddle. The staff copes with the space crunch by laying Chimes out on successive nights.

Allison Graff and Bob Crow

Allison Graff and Bob Crow

At least the Chimes staff has space. It is one of eight student organizations that does have squatters' rights on a piece of the Commons Annex. For the rest of the more-than-60 student organizations-focused around everything from anime to social justice-it's a little more of a nomadic existence.

Student organizations are just one of the many beneficiaries of a new Campus Commons, one of the major building components in the Campaign for Calvin College.

The new Commons will be a home for all students, said Bob Crow, dean of student development. "I think of it as a family room. We don't have a great space right now to be a hub of family life. Having a space where students can congregate and connect in the center of campus will be a big boost to our learning community."

Calvin vice president for student life Shirley Hoogstra agrees, calling the dialogue that happens on campus but outside of the classroom "continued discussions" that are "critical to student development."

The re-envisioned Campus Commons will offer a total of 120,000 square feet of flexible space for Chimes and other student organizations, as well as meeting space for more informal gatherings. Half of the space-60,000 square feet-will be dedicated to a new dining facility, which will bring the Calvin community together at the table.

The new Commons will be a model of culinary efficiency; over one million meals a year are served to students on the Calvin campus.

This is the first time the Commons, originally built in 1967, will be getting major attention. There have been renovations to the coffee shop and campus store but nothing close to the comprehensive nature of the current plan.

Even a Chimes nostalgia buff like Allison Graff acknowledges that exchanging the historic but cramped set of production rooms in the current Commons building for more spacious and effective work areas in the new facility is a good trade-off.

"I think that the Chimes staff could benefit greatly from a space where we could have more formal interaction between editors and writers," she said.