Livingston atmosphere set to change in future


When thinking of Livingston Campus, one might call to mind the infamous Tillett Dining Hall, or perhaps Lucy Stone Hall's confusing hallways. Or perhaps one would recall the intimate setting of Quad life or visualize the campus's layout of its boxy buildings.

But as University officials implement changes for the campus's landscape and academic infrastructure, some would say they would now have students look to Livingston campus as an academic setting with a professional focus.

"It think [the revision is] a natural progression of Livingston campus," said Tony Calcado, the vice president for Facilities and Capital Planning. "It's the campus that has always had social concerns, and I think this moves the original vision of Livingston further along. I don't think its changing it. I don't think it's throwing anything away."

Carla Yanni, a professor of Art History, said Livingston College, the college located on Livingston campus before the University's unification of schools, was progressive for its time.

"There were a couple of different goals," Yanni said. "It was thought of as the place where students would study urban studies, and it had a kind of open admissions policy. It was intended to broaden the range of students who could attend college."

She said it was also the University's first co-ed college, because at the time it was formed, Rutgers College was still all male.

Livingston campus has seen its share of myths, including one that explains Lucy Stone Hall's design as a means to prevent riots.

She said there is absolutely no evidence of that, and the building is typical of architecture from the late 1960s and early 1970s. She said concrete was an "in-vogue" building material at the time because it is cheap, reliable, and it lasts a long time.

"Consequently, every university has a concrete building from late sixties and the early seventies, and this myth has developed about all of them, that they were bunkers, and that's just not true," Yanni said.

She said the hall was also constructed with "confusing" blueprints as a means to encourage instructors in different departments to bump into each other in the halls and talk about their work.

Yanni said the campus also fostered this ideal of intimacy with its construction of the Quads.

"In an attempt to create smaller, family-like grouping, the halls inside of the Quads were purposefully short, so that there were only eight or 12 students on a hall," Yanni said. "And that was intentional, because they wanted the groups of students to be smaller."

While the Livingston campus at the time was geared toward an atmosphere of a small liberal arts college, Calcado said the campus's new vision sees a concentration of professional and continuous education programs, while new construction includes a new dining hall and student center.

In his annual address, University President Richard L. McCormick emphasized the campus's devotion to progress and collaboration.

"Creating a campus of professional schools and disciplines — including business, education, social work, and management and labor relations — has enormous potential for transforming these fields, meeting the needs of our students, and generating economic and social progress," McCormick said. "It will also give Livingston a distinct identity…– an identity that relates to its history of leadership and social justice."

With an anonymous gift of $13 million, the University can launch a long-term initiative to develop its Livingston campus in Piscataway as a center for business and professional studies.

Of the total donation, $10 million will support construction of a new building for the Rutgers Business School.

Calcado said additional plans for the campus include new academic buildings, housing, a hotel and conference center, a reliable transportation network, and a sustainable, pedestrian-friendly community that will complement its new business and professional focus.

While the initiative is aimed at providing a distinct Livingston campus identity, it would also make the campus a premier destination for faculty, students, adult learners, business leaders and residents from across New Jersey, Calcado said.

But many students acknowledge a distinct campus identity already present on Livingston campus.

George Ko, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said the campus provides a laid back, relaxed atmosphere and allows for more diverse thoughts.

Judy Lin said turning Livingston campus into a corporate headquarters may detract from the campus's unique quality.

"[These changes] take away from any intimate feel there may have been," Lin said.

This attitude may be extended towards renovating the campus in other areas, as some students doubt changes to student hangouts will be constructive.

Tillett Dining Hall is currently under design, and Calcado said the design process should be completed by the end of the year. If the Board of Governors approves the bid, the $24.7 million multi-story dining facility should provide an upscale, modern dining environment by 2010.

"If the renovation is only fixing the aesthetic aspect, then it's not beneficial," said Chris Caamano, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior. "They should instead change the food."

Calcado said the University is also currently working on the student center's infrastructure, and while much of the mall was torn up over the summer, the project should be completed by the end of 2009.

The building will be 70 percent larger, Calcado said, and facilities will be expanded to include a new multipurpose room with modern sound and lighting systems, an expanded coffeehouse area, a convenience store, a collaborative learning center, and additional meeting and lounge space.

Despite all this new construction, Yanni said you have to walk around to appreciate Livingston's full value.

"Even today, it's much nicer looking on foot if you get inside of the courtyards of the quads … It's the outside view of it that's not as attractive," Yanni said. "It wasn't meant to be seen from the road. It was meant to be a kind of internal focused liberal arts college."

— Lauren Caruso contributed to this story


Rachel Gillett

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