Space crunch: construction on campus disrupts student life

At times, the campus can feel suffocating.


A proposed campus design from the One Simmons project. Graphic courtesy of Laura Brink-Pisinski

Sara Getman, Opinion Editor

Simmons’ decision to pursue in-person classes has been a welcome and exciting decision even more so for current seniors who left campus as sophomores. While students are trying to adjust back into classes, the ongoing construction on campus is making the transition a whole lot harder. 

I spoke to Laura Brink Pisinski, Simmons’ VP of University Real Estate and Facilities Management, to learn more about the specifics of the construction happening on the Academic campus. 

Perhaps the biggest disruption is the breakdown of the quad between MCB and Lefavour. Brink Pisinski stated that the central electrical plant is on top of the Park Science building. “Since we are planning on taking Park Science down, to build the new Living and Learning center, we have to rearrange the central utilities,” said Brink Pisinski.  

This construction disruption is also related to the creation of new science facilities, library and overall updating. 

Simmons was granted a demolition permit in October of 2020 and the building permit for the new science center and library in February 2021. Ground was broken this past winter. The science center is slated to be finished by this coming May and fully functional for the next academic year. 

The new science center will include new nursing labs, simulation centers, and labs made specifically for the natural and behavioral sciences. The new library will extend from the west wing of MCB, through the former Student Activities center and into the first floor of Lefavour.  

Brink Pisinski described it as a “total gut renovation.” 

Phase 1 of the project, which includes the face-lift to Palace Rd, Management, and MCB, was started in late May 2020. The permit was granted right before Boston went into lockdown in March 2020, so the crew lost about two months. Although Phase 1 is largely finished, the set back from COVID explains why finishing touches are still being worked on. This includes the entrance to MCB.

Boston is notoriously inaccessible and because Simmons is such an old college, it only had a couple ramps that students could use. Phase 1 sought to rectify this. 

According to Brink Pisinski, much of the campus needs to be brought up to code in general, and this includes up to code for ADA compliance. The main entrance to MCB is currently closed off for the installation of a wheelchair accessible ramp.  

“The entrance is slated to be open by the beginning of November. You’ll see a significant difference in the disruption on the Quad by that time as well” Brink Pisinski stated. 

While November isn’t too far off, having on average 110 strange construction workers walking around campus, plus the additional noise, makes our normally peaceful academic campus feel uncomfortable and inconvenient.

A professor in the Ifill College alleges she was catcalled by a construction worker on campus.

Responding to these allegations, Brink Pisinski said in a statement,“This behavior is absolutely not acceptable and will not be tolerated. We have a standards of behavior agreement with the Lee Kennedy Company and their subcontractors.” She encouraged people to report such incidents to Simmons Public Safety.  

It is no secret that historically women’s colleges are rapidly disappearing. Only 50 years ago, there were 200 women’s colleges in the U.S. Now, only 35 are left. Even our neighbor, Emmanuel College, opened their doors to men only 20 years ago. 

The shadow of large universities absorbing smaller colleges looms at our back door. Take Wheelock for example; a small liberal arts college focused on education and the arts that was swallowed whole by Boston University. 

This new construction could keep Simmons afloat for years to come, but it is frustrating for students to have to work around so much disruption. 

On top of this, we no longer have a library to go to, or private study rooms. Instead we are crammed into Common Grounds and the Fens, we compete for meeting rooms, and it’s rare to find a place to sit alone. During a deadly pandemic, the last thing we need is to be crammed into a couple very specific spaces. 

At times, the campus can feel suffocating.

I asked Brink Pisinski about this, and she recognized the issue. “We know there is a crunch on space,” she stated. In collaboration with the conference team, Brink Pisinski’s team is creating an interactive map for students to find open places to study and be able to book them. 

Brink Pisinski encourages students to reach out to her with any suggestions, questions, or concerns.

“While we recognize that there’s a lot of disruption, we’re working as quickly as we can to accommodate the needs that the students have.”


CORRECTION: Oct. 4, 2021

An earlier version of this article lacked information about the first phase of construction and lacked information surrounding the allegation of a catcall.