More than 60 Ithaca College students gathered at the Towers Concourse Lounge for the weekly Open Mic Night on Nov. 6, a day after the administration announced a decision to close down the lounge to accommodate offices beginning in the 2014–15 academic year.
The decision to close down the lounge is a part of the college’s efforts to find a new home on campus for the Physical Therapy Center, which will move from Rochester to Ithaca College over the summer of 2014. The TC Lounge, formerly known as the Tower Club, opened in Fall 2010 and currently serves as a study lounge, cafe and a space used by students for weekly open mic nights.
In a Intercom announcement sent Nov. 5, Marisa Kelly, provost and vice president for educational affairs, said the Information Technology Services offices, which are currently on the second floor of Job Hall, will move to the TC Lounge next year. The Office of International Programs and the Gerontology Institute, which are currently in the Center for Health Sciences, will move into the vacant spot in Job Hall.
The vacant spaces in CHS will then be used as additional classrooms and offices for physical therapy beginning next year. The cadaver and movement analysis laboratories of the PT Center will be housed in the recently renovated Hill Center. These new facilities are scheduled to open for the 2014–15 academic year.
A survey was sent out by the Student Government Association on Nov. 6, and 756 members of the college responded. Of them, 96 percent said the TC Lounge is an important part of campus culture and 97 percent said they wished they were allowed to participate in the decision-making process.
Kelly said she reached out to the Residence Hall Association a few days before the decision was announced. She also said faculty in physical therapy have been very involved in planning, and faculty in the Department of Gerontology and the Office of International Programs were consulted.
“I did want to give RHA advance notice about this, and I have promised to meet whenever they would like over the course of the spring semester in thinking about what are the best hours, for example, in continued expansion of the library hours to help meet the needs of the students who might otherwise need to go to the lounge,” she said.
Junior Sam Gibble, who is also a President’s Host tour guide, said she tells prospective students about the TC Lounge’s Open Mic Night while on tours, and they grow excited at the opportunity to participate and share their music publicly on campus, even without being a music student.
“This just reminds me of the media policy last year when that whole thing went down,” Gibble said. “It was like the same thing, but students put so much into it that [the college] was like ‘Alright, we’ll consider it.’”
Senior Cedrick-Michael Simmons, president of the SGA, said he will work with the RHA to create more avenues for students to voice their concerns.
“This is, quite frankly, an opportunity for students to realize that we need to start being clearer about the fact that we want to be a part of the discussions, in reaction and [being] proactive, in relation to different changes that are happening on this campus,” he said.
Junior Tom Smith, president of the IC Jazz Club, said his group of about 30 students hosts Jazz Night from 8:30 p.m. to midnight every Thursday in the lounge. He said the event is a place for students to go to a communal area, relax and enjoy jazz music, whether they are playing or listening.
“You can’t have this experience in the practice room,” he said. “This is an experience you can’t get just staying in the music school, and this is a place that has been kind of a stepping stone. This is a place we learned to play in front of people that was a safe environment.”
Kelly said this arrangement is the only option the college has, given the square footage requirements for the office space.
“We have got a spare office here or there scattered around campus, but we really believed that the quality of the PT program would be enhanced by having all of our PT faculty housed in the Center for Health Sciences and Smiddy Hall, [which make up] the general HSHP space,” Kelly said. “That’s actually one of the things that’s an enhancement over the current split between this campus and the Rochester campus.”
Kelly also said other factors in the decision included the fact that the TC Lounge space is not utilized 24 hours a day. Furthermore, she said the decision was timely, as it meant the lounge stays open this year as the college is working to accommodate a larger-than-expected freshman class. Kelly said, this year, the TC Lounge will give a study space for students whose residence hall lounges have been converted into rooms.
Junior Jennifer Burgess, director of promotion and public affairs for the Open Mic Nights, said she received an email from her club adviser on Nov. 5 informing her about the change. Burgess said she was initially shocked and caught off guard by the announcement.
Since learning about the closing of the TC Lounge, many people have used Facebook and Twitter to share heartwarming comments about Open Mic Night being an outlet for students to perform.
“A lot of people call that their safe place,” Burgess said. “People like going there, they feel comfortable there. A lot of our performers, that was the first place they’ve ever performed, so it’s like a soft spot for a lot of people.”
In response to the announcement, Burgess said she and the members of the club plan to email Kelly explaining their concerns. She said she is not expecting a response, but she hopes Kelly will take the time to read the email.
“All I really want is for her to read it, and I’m sure a lot of people feel that way too,” Burgess said.
Senior K.C. Weston, a member of the student band Second Dam, said she first gained inspiration and the confidence to perform at Open Mic Night and in front of an audience beyond fans of Voicestream, the a cappella group of which she is a member. Weston said she met one- third of her bandmates at Open Mic Night, and she is sad to see a place so integral to her growth as a singer disappear.
“There is no other space on campus,” Weston said. “TC Lounge creates a space in which people are there to enjoy themselves and listen. It’s different from every other venue on campus, and that’s why we were comfortable playing there first … It just can’t be replaced.”