February 12, 2016

Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students,

Recently, senior members of my administration have been reviewing capital projects under way or planned for the future.  As you know, the newest addition to the campus is currently under construction near the Crescent Street Townhouses.  The bookstore and café, now located in the basement of Mather Hall, are slated for this new space.  So far, we have in place the building’s foundation and the beginnings of an outer structure.

In the course of reviewing capital projects, and also informally as I listen to different constituencies around campus, I have received feedback that the new Crescent Street building should be put to use in support of our academic programs.  As a College, we have a number of pressing academic space needs, and the building’s central location within the southern part of campus would make it appealing for this kind of use.  The new building will encompass more than 11,000 square feet, allowing it to accommodate multiple academic programs and purposes.

I have listened to the concerns about programming in the new Crescent Street building and would like to consider alternatives for its use that support our core academic mission.  Most recently, the College has made major capital investments in Vernon Social, the renovated kitchen/lounge areas in first-year residence halls, athletics fields, and the new Music Hall.  Now I ask, what is the best use of this new space?  The construction is at a critical juncture, with the beginnings of an outside structure in place but with some flexibility still remaining to change the interiors for different use.  In other words, we have a unique opportunity to take advantage of the construction under way and customize it to support some of the campus community’s most pressing academic needs.  It seems prudent, and indeed an incredible opportunity, to step back and consider optimal uses of these 11,000 square feet of new construction.

I have asked the developers, Kirchhoff Campus Properties, to pause the construction so that we in the campus community may discuss ideas for how to create a cost-effective use of this building to support our core academic mission.  Kirchhoff has agreed to do so, with the understanding that we will determine a possible new usage quickly so that the project may proceed.  Chartwells, which runs the Cave, and Barnes and Noble, which runs the bookstore, are amenable to remaining in their current locations in Mather Hall.

Now is the time to hear from you.  I invite you to a meeting, led by Interim Deans of the Faculty Sonia Cardenas and Melanie Stein, to discuss possible academic uses for this space.  I ask that we consider uses that are value-added to the College – spaces for new initiatives rather than as replacement spaces, and ones that will enhance the quality and reputation of Trinity.  This meeting will be held on Thursday, February 18, from 12:15 to 1:15 in McCook Auditorium.  Please come share your ideas.

My goal for the future is to establish a process by which we as a community identify our construction priorities and establish a multi-constituency group that will review and prioritize these projects on behalf of all of us before taking the projects to the Board of Trustees for approval.  Next week’s meeting about the new Crescent Street building will be a first step toward establishing such a process.  We must work quickly to make a determination about this space, however in the future I expect such a process to benefit from a longer lead time.

Thank you, and I look forward to hearing your ideas.


Joanne Berger-Sweeney
President and Trinity College Professor of Neuroscience