Drexel announced May 5 that a new hotel will be built at the corner of 33rd and Chestnut streets in the space currently occupied by the James E. Marks Intercultural Center. The hotel, The Study at University City, will be developed and owned by Connecticut-based hotel company Hospitality 3 and is scheduled to open in 2016. Drexel and the surrounding community will receive numerous benefits from this new establishment, but it will come at the heavy cost of academic and extracurricular space.
As part of President John A. Fry’s Innovation Neighborhood, The Study at University City will create new jobs and revenue in the community. In addition to being a convenient location where families of current and prospective students, Drexel guests and researchers, and visitors of University City could stay, an on-campus hotel would be extremely useful during busy visitation periods of the year such as Accepted Students Days, New Student Orientation and Alumni Weekend.
An on-campus hotel could directly benefit Drexel students, specifically those in the hospitality program. We hope that The Study at University City will offer these students easy access to co-op opportunities as well as other forms of employment to enhance their professional and educational experience at Drexel.
Unfortunately, we are being asked to give up the Intercultural Center to make room for The Study at University City. But is knocking down an academic building to replace it with a third-party business the right way to go? Proponents of The Study can point to Drexel’s recent construction of the Gerri C. LeBow Hall, which required knocking down Matheson Hall. But we aren’t talking about a new educational space or research facility to replace its antiquated predecessor; we’re talking about a business.
At Drexel, academic space is at a premium. The Intercultural Center is home to the Study Abroad Office, the Office of Equality and Diversity, the Student Center for Inclusion and Culture, a number of cultural and religious groups, as well as event spaces and a classroom. Taking away these spaces and relocating their occupants to other places on campus is not ideal when other buildings may already be experiencing overcrowding issues. Earlier this term The Triangle wrote an article on the shared space in MacAlister Hall between the Drexel Writing Center and adjunct professors in the English department. The article noted that this arrangement may be in violation of the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The fact is, despite our administration’s willful blindness, Drexel has many other spaces to develop a world-class hotel. There is the superblock at 30th and Chestnut streets. There’s the vast expanse of surface parking lots on JFK Boulevard and in front of 3101 Market Street. In our “dense urban campus” there exist acres of underused space. To build this hotel without eliminating existing academic space would not only be feasible, it would be much easier than the proposed plan. Even to construct the hotel while retaining the Intercultural Center would be easy, because much of the lot is already given over to largely unproductive purposes like surface parking lots. We see no reason why a hotel could not coexist with a new, redesigned Intercultural Center on the same lot.
The Intercultural Center, including its many offices and religious and cultural spaces, will be relocated to the basement of the Paul Peck Problem Solving Center. But what about Drexel’s message of diversity and inclusion? The Intercultural Center exists to support Drexel’s many different racial, religious and social groups, many of whom will be affected by the loss of our Intercultural Center. Removing the functions of the Intercultural Center from its own building debases the significance of Drexel’s efforts to increase cultural and religious diversity. If we are to demolish the Intercultural Center in the name of commerce, what does that say about Drexel? If Drexel’s true message about equality and diversity is one of inclusion, wouldn’t an Intercultural Center that‘s central to campus life be paramount? Is a “location central to campus” worth destroying our Intercultural Center for? Is the need for more hotel space that necessary, with the Sheraton a short walk from campus?
While we are excited for the opportunity to have The Study at University City come to our campus, we at the Triangle do not approve of it coming at the expense of such an important cultural and academic space.