Editorial: Campus still needs a larger facility for big events


Lexi Loya

Rice Auditorium begins to fill up for the Student Activities Council’s showing of the documentary film “The Mask You Live In” on Oct. 27. Baker administrators are planning a renovation project for the auditorium. Image by Lexi Loya.

Story by The Baker Orange Editorial Board

Baker administrators have been planning a renovation project in Rice Auditorium that now has funding behind it. The renovation is possible due to the Sunderland Foundation which, according to President Lynne Murray, has had a “long-standing history” with the school. At $300,000, this is the largest grant the foundation has ever presented to Baker University.

This grant will allow the renovation process to accelerate, and hopefully other donations will follow. Administrators say they plan to make the auditorium a welcoming and functional space.

While we applaud the administration and donors for keeping Baker’s facilities on the cutting edge of technology and aesthetics, the auditorium still only seats 885, but there are now close to a thousand students on campus. If all faculty, coaches and staff are included, this adds even more spaces needed to seat the campus population. With the student population growing, Baker needs a place that can seat every member of the Baker University population in case of an emergency as well as for large productions and events such as convocation.

Baker is blessed to have an award-winning theater program, and the Rice Auditorium renovation project can give theater students the first-class facility that the program deserves. The campus still needs a large facility that is separate from Rice Auditorium, though.

Unlike many universities, our graduation is held in a gymnasium instead of a larger indoor facility. Not only does this feel informal, but it can also feel stuffy and crowded. Students who have worked very hard at this school might feel better about graduation in a larger, more formal assembly room rather than on a basketball court.

As it does on days like graduation, our professional image here at Baker suffers when we hold our celebrations in spaces too small to accommodate ourselves and our guests. At last year’s Dialogos, because of a scheduling conflict in Rice Auditorium, the event had to be moved to Mabee Hall.

While the lecture halls work wonderfully for their intended purposes and numbers, fitting our guests in standing-room only space on the day of a formal academic celebration like Dialogos seems inappropriate and uncomfortable.

A new meeting facility would also help with many popular activities hosted by Student Activities Council and the Alumni Center. As it stands now, Mabee gym and the Alumni Center are too small for large groups, and are not always easily navigable for our guests. Also, the Mabee gym is already far too crowded with athletic teams that use the space for practices.

Though event planning and housing are good enough reasons to consider a new space, the most concerning issue relates to campus safety. This college community needs a meeting place in case of an emergency where every single student, faculty and staff member can gather and be accounted for.

We like to think that Baker is a safe, secure campus; however, the possibility of a school shooting cannot be overlooked at any school, big or small.

Seeing Rice Auditorium thrive shows that we’re headed in the right direction, but knowing that our campus population is growing compels us to realize the importance of a space where we can all gather in moments of joy and crisis.