Proposed renovations to Cap Bar paused

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Senior Monica Stephens smiles as she makes a drink for a fellow student. Photo by Marquel Plavan.

The University of Dallas decided to not pursue the controversial and divisive plan to move the Cap Bar and renovate J.M. Haggar Center, at least while UD searches for a new president.

Karen Reilly, general counsel for the university, said that the decision to put off renovation plans was made in May by the board of trustees, which voted to place construction on hold in order to focus on other priorities.

The university’s plans to refurbish Haggar were released in late February and caused a great deal of debate on campus.

UD planned to enter into a contract with the current food service provider, Aramark, to expand dining services, according to a Feb. 28 article by The University News.

These plans included moving the locations of the campus bookstore and Cap Bar in order to create space for an alternative dining option..

However, the announcement caused debate among students, alumni and faculty. Objections included the length of the contract with Aramark and the lack of overall community input involved in the decision making process. The Cap Bar is traditionally a place where students, faculty and staff can gather before, between and after classes.

Provost Jonathan Sanford wrote that “greater clarification” is needed to determine if, and how, the proposed plans fulfill the mission of the university.

“Should there eventually be a renovation in Haggar, we need to be very clear on the purpose for it,” Sanford said.

Sanford said the UD administration will seek to maintain transparent communication with the UD community regarding the proposed renovations and other issues.

Sanford wrote that he plans to meet with student government representatives on a regular basis and interact with other students “in a variety of ways” to foster mutual understanding on issues regarding campus life.

Committees such as the newly-formed committee regarding campus spaces will provide avenues for constructive discussion, Sanford added.

Following the release of the proposed plans, the student government actively mediated between administration and the UD community, according to senior student government president Clare Slattery.

“Extensive conversations were had about this issue,” Slattery wrote.

Initiatives to promote mutual understanding included surveys, student government meetings with Aramark representative Kyle Wilson and a school-wide town hall for students to voice concerns.

However, Slattery does not believe these efforts were persuasive.

“The opinions of UD students, faculty members, or alumni are generally well-founded and almost always hard-won,” Slattery said. “I’m sure that if I asked anyone their opinion on it now, I’d get the same response.”

Like Sanford and Slattery, Reilly believes more conversation is needed to assess any shifts in the community’s view of the proposed renovation.

“I don’t think we would know one way or the other because we haven’t really talked about it,” Reilly said.

The results of Cap Bar surveys sent to alumni, students, and faculty, measuring the importance of Cap Bar features to the community, were compiled into a report by Alison Pettyjohn, previous chair of the Student Concerns Committee.

This report was presented to Dr. John Plotts, then acting as executive vice president for enrollment and student affairs, and the Student Life Committee. Slattery said that trustee Mary Ritter was present at all Student Life Committee meetings.  

Reilly was unable to confirm whether this report had been presented to the Board of Trustees prior to their vote at the end of the academic year. 

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