Town Center West Approved by Board, Causes Student Response

Last weekend, the College’s recommendation to self-develop the Swarthmore Town Center West was approved by the Board of Managers. The proposed project would include a 40- to 45-room inn, a restaurant, and a bookstore.

According to President Rebecca Chopp, the Town Center West will be an “intellectual living room” for the campus, including a large meeting space to house academic events, in addition to the proposed hospitality components.

By providing a space for visiting lecturers, families, and alumni to be housed on campus, Chopp hopes the Town Center West will allow departments to hold more conferences and panels. “It will be an extremely important part of the community,” Chopp said.

Maurice Eldridge, Vice President, echoed this sentiment, saying, “We really don’t have the capacity to host small to medium-sized conferences.” In addition, the restaurant will help to create an environment that promotes informal, intellectual gatherings.

The idea of an inn on campus was first proposed well over ten years ago, but planning was stalled due to the economic climate. Last June, after the college was approved to apply for a $2 million grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the project was brought “back to the table,” Chopp said.

Some changes in the project have been made in the months leading up to the February Board meeting. The recommendation approved by the Board of Managers over the weekend included a smaller inn that had originally been considered, suggesting approximately 40 to 45 rooms. According to Sue Welsh, Vice President for Finance and Treasurer, two independent market studies were done and both pointed to an optimal size of about 40 to 45 rooms.

In deciding the scale for the inn, the College also had to look at what seemed feasible both in terms of operation and finance, Eldridge said.

The decision to self-develop is another recent shift in the project. Originally, the college had planned to contract an outside developer. According to Welsh, the options that arose from meetings with developers were not financially attractive. “What the developer offered us did not meet [our] criteria,” Welsh said.

According to Chopp, self-development will also give the college more control over the Town Center West in terms of staffing and other operational decisions. “The College has a long, positive history of ensuring competitive wage and benefit packages,” Chopp wrote in a email to the student body. “Our commitment to these conditions holds true for any staff person working on our campus and will include those who will work at the inn and restaurant.”

The Swarthmore Labor Action Project (SLAP) presented a letter to the Town Center West Committee last week asking for “concrete action” to be taken on this statement. “We remain hopeful that [the College] will…make those words ring true,” SLAP wrote in a request that a neutrality agreement be recommended to the Board. This recommendation was not made at the February Board of Managers meeting.

Students at a rally for workers’ rights, and specifically the institution of a neutrality agreement, during the Board meeting last Friday. Over fifty students were in attendance, according to Bortner. Photo by Jiuxing June Xie.

According to Adam Bortner ’12, a member of SLAP, a neutrality agreement is needed to “put protections [for workers’ rights] in place.” In response to the College’s decision not to include a neutrality agreement in the recommendation to the Board, several members of SLAP, along with residents in the Borough of Swarthmore, have started collecting signatures for a liquor referendum.

“If we cannot be certain that concrete protections for the future employees will be in place, we will work to make sure the community is able to have a vote on an issue that would affect the Town Center West project, regarding the granting of liquor licenses,” SLAP wrote in its letter to the Town Center West Committee.

If enough signatures are collected, the liquor policy in the Borough could be up for a vote. Currently, the Borough is dry with the exception of the Town Center West, once it is completed. The current law is based on a vote that was held about ten years ago. According to Bortner, “the community deserves another say on this.”

If there is a vote on Swarthmore’s liquor policy, the outcome could result in a dry Town Center West or, alternately, in the possibility of a liquor license for any “qualified business,” Bortner said.

In terms of the connection between the liquor law and labor at the Town Center West, Bortner said, “there’s not a clear link.”

Solange Hilfinger-Pardo ’12, a member of both the Town Center West Committee and of SLAP, said that the committee discussed what a neutrality agreement would entail in terms of the Town Center West, but that “no decision was come to.”

According to Hilfinger-Pardo, the recommendation presented to the Board “seemed reasonable to everyone” on the Town Center West Committee. She said that she understands the neutrality agreement to be a “decision that will end up being made by the Board.”

Eldridge said that it is possible that the employees of the Town Center West would not be College employees in the same way that Dining Services and EVS workers are. Instead, the College may consider other means of operation for the Town Center West.

If the workers at the Town Center West were College employees, “it would be a step in the right direction,” Bortner said. “Ensuring something is better than nothing.” However, “a union… is having a voice,” Bortner added.

Still, Eldridge said that the College would uphold their labor standards at the Town Center West. “We can’t imagine a structure in which our values are absent,” Eldridge said.

Over the coming weeks, the College is hosting a variety of discussions related to the Town Center West, with a panel discussion on labor issues scheduled for March 2. The panel will include the supervising attorney from the Philadelphia office of the National Labor Relations Board and two attorneys practicing in labor law. The College is also bringing Rick Pastorino, of RevPAR International, Inc., for a lecture on the hospitality industry on February 28.

“There are other good, important questions that the inn project has elicited,” Chopp wrote in her email to the student body, “and these too, will be addressed in future public sessions.”


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57 comments

  1. 0
    Bread & Roses says:

    Danielle, it seems you are talking down to your peers: as if we haven't "grasped the concept" of an investment, that we think we need 100% agreement to move forward with the hotel, or that we somehow want our strong disagreement about the project to translate into a totalizing condemnation of our otherwise excellent college. Please give us more credit, and let's talk about what is really at stake.

    The hotel (I avoid the use of "inn" cause it smacks of a contrived homeliness that I don't see any reason to convey) is most likely going to be built. And surely, it will make money. In addition to our hopes for conferences and alumni bedding, the hotel is designed to make money. But instead of grafting the corporate business model onto our school, SLAP and other students are making the point that Swarthmore must do more than the bare minimum of good investing, and that the school must pay to ensure the more than competitive wages on which people could actually live.

    Aside from all the talk of unionization and card check, what most appalls me is that the school has yet to agree the hotel workers will be hired according to the Living Wage policy. While of course I don't imagine that Swarthmore will be the most ruthless employer (because we're all so nice and smart and have a uniform idea of what social justice looks like…), I can't see any reason for the school to avoid its Living Wage commitment other than to circumvent it.

    Do you think the school should hire the hotel workers as per our Living Wage policy? Remember, Living Wage is a Swarthmore policy that sets us apart from your run-of-the-mill investor. Rather than gripe your peers haven't "grasped the concept of an investment", perhaps you should be more diligent in grasping the concept of a school that is working admirably to reject the dictates of a so-called free market.

  2. 0
    art history buff says:

    Is anyone else upset that the community did not get to help select the architects/architectural plans for this project?

    I think it is important for the community to have a say in what they want to inn to look like, as the layout and aesthetics of campus buildings have huge effects on the building's use and the reputation of the school.

  3. 0
    poor parent says:

    16 million? No more spending! We can continue to use Swarthmore College's beautiful, park-like, luxurious current facilities as conference facilities that we already support. Have we lost track of the Quaker ideal of Simplicity?

  4. 0
    no let's be rhel says:

    Ms. Urban's statement still winds up being an expression of her idiosyncratic interests. And my point still holds: what is NOT on the table is OPTION 1: Swarthmore is awarded this money or OPTION 2 $16m back to taxpayers. In fact, Ms. Urban's point about struggling tax payers is ONLY an ad hominem 'jab,' and has no meaning or motivation beyond her disinterest in the project.

  5. 0
    Idiosyncratic says:

    Mr. Rhel,

    My understanding is that the money has not been fully allocated and does not have to be awarded to this particular project. There are still other steps in the process and the money from the state certainly could be reabsorbed for other purposes.

  6. 0
    ? says:

    So, let me get this straight:

    Though narrowly, the residents voted to allow this exception. Where is all the certainty coming from that it would fail now? Why does there have to be a vote of a license for all or none? I can very well imagine residents being against a wet town in general, but for granting the college permission in this particular instance. Oh, wait, that's what they did in '02.

  7. 0
    no, let's be rhel says:

    Joan Urban-

    You wrote, "At $16 million, this is one large expenditure and I for one think it is appalling that the college plans to take money from struggling taxpayers to help finance it."

    But let's be rhel about what isn't on the table. What's not on the table is $16m for Swarthmore College or $16m in tax breaks. The money has all ready been allocated, as I understand it. So really your argument amounts to your idiosyncratic feelings about the project.

  8. 0
    Joan Urban says:

    Tim,

    My point was that in some of the plans, including the one circulated last August, the side of Station Square adjacent to Clothier Fields/the proposed site for the inn complex will be removed. There has been talk of putting in a loop around the whole complex which apparently will feed into 320 as an extension of Rutgers Ave. I am concerned that shoppers in the ville will find that one long road to get onto 320 and will not use that as their route home. Rather, they will use one of several side streets which are not configured to take an increased traffic load, do not have sidewalks in some places, are parked up on two sides and dangerous already, bend and turn, and cross the major artery to the local elementary school, sports fields, summer camps, and so on. In my opinion, this would be a major safety issue.

    Stu Hain now says that with the smaller hotel, there is a possibility that Station Square could be realigned so that it continues and intersects with 320 or with the extension of Rutgers Ave.but at a wider angle than presently, thereby meeting regulations for a traffic light. It is encouraging that possibility is being considered. But however you cut it, just the fact of having a traffic light which will be red much of the time will mean traffic back-ups on 320, an already at times very congested road (try taking 320 to the mall during rush hour some evenings, you'll see it can take you 15 to 20 minutes to get from the middle of town to Baltimore Pike).

    In all honesty, Tim, you are not even a resident in Swarthmore so please don't be so cavalier in casting judgment on town issues you apparently don't know about. Noone is saying the proposed complex is intrinsically bad. It would be a fine idea if all else were equal, but there are large trade-offs involved. At $16 million, this is one large expenditure and I for one think it is appalling that the college plans to take money from struggling taxpayers to help finance it. The notion that to forego this luxury construction, despite all that can be said in favor of it, is to sport a downsized, constricting hair shirt is absurd. Let's get reasonable.

  9. 0
    Ouch says:

    If there's a new cafe as part of this project, which is in the current proposal, won't that hurt Hobb's? And if other small businesses or restaurants in town are not able to profit from alcohol sales because only the college has a liquor license, that puts them at an even greater disadvantage. What good is this new development if it forces existing businesses to close shop? Then we'll have even more vacant buildings in the Ville.

  10. 0
    C'mon already ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    Timothy Burke,

    I think Joan was saying that another traffic light on the already at-times-congested Chester Rd/320 is what would divert traffic to residential areas. A completely valid point since many drivers try to avoid the annoying, endless delays of idling in front of the stoplights already on the road.

    No one reasonably suggested that this would attract droves and droves of business, but a new traffic signal would clearly change traffic patterns. So even if you strongly support the hotel project, it's not fair to tell someone they're "blowing smoke" when they make a completely valid point. And it's even worse when you pin that criticism on Project when that person didn't even discuss traffic in their post.

  11. 0
    Bookworm Girl says:

    I have to say I'm a little distressed by the idea that one shouldn't invest in a brick-and-mortar bookstore or the idea that everyone buys everything online anyway. While it's certainly true that Amazon, for instance, is a great place for getting hard-to-access titles, I think there's something lost when you can't browse in a bookstore. And if the college can afford a bookstore, then I feel that even if it's not the most profitable they're doing, it's kind of worth something. Also the bookstore doesn't just sell textbooks. Sure, it's not got a giant collection, but it does sell fiction and nonfiction other than textbooks.

  12. 0
    Timothy Burke says:

    Dear Project:

    Lodging: as you say, this will benefit the college. Ok! Doesn't hurt the town, unless you think the riff-raff of visiting professors, conference guests and the parents of prospective students are going to get out of control. Maybe a few of them might even have some coffee in Hobbs or a sandwich in Occasionally Yours, as well as dinner in the Inn's restaurant. As opposed to food and services wherever else it is that they'd be staying–the airport, downtown, the Main Line.

    Dining: So unless you can have 80+ restaurants, it's not worth building just one? There are plenty of towns that have 1-3 good restaurants that are a draw in their own right and appreciated by their local community. Even when there are other restaurants only ten or twenty minutes away.

    Bookstore: the college is committed to operating one. It's better for the college to have it in a new facility, especially for ADA-compliance, as you note. Again, is this going to hurt the town somehow? Having the bookstore closer to the town center is going to be an actively bad thing in what way? Nobody's saying it's going to make anybody rich, just that the college is going to have one anyway, so why not there? Do you hate the idea of books being available for sale too close to the town center? (Also: it's Borders that has filed for Chapter 11, not B&N.)

    Tax Revenues: So let's say the benefit is small, for the sake of argument. This is better than none for what reason?

    Is the only issue you actually have that there is some public money involved? What else does the town lose through this project in its current reduced, modest form? You don't think anybody is going to use any of this and it will fail economically, so don't blow smoke back about how it's going to increase traffic. You can't have it both ways.

    Is there some other investment in the town that you would prefer the college make, so you're worried about the opportunity cost of investment going into this building rather than another?

  13. 0
    skin in the game says:

    A project in search of a reason to exist-

    What skin in the game has you, beyond living in Swarthmore? Please respond to T. Burke's contention: what is intrinsically bad about the project?

    And as a side note, so readers don't doubt your credibility, you should be more precise about your claims on Barns & Noble bankruptcy, which has not pursued Chapter 11. Yes, it has closed some stores, but its response to market dynamics does not constitute bankruptcy.

  14. 0
    eater, drinker, talker says:

    I'm with Tim Burke that there's nothing intrinsically awful about a new place to share a meal and a drink, especially if it bridges existing gaps between student and borough populations. But like Prof. Burke said, the labor and financial issues are real and worth discussing, and I think it's of secondary importance to imagine how nice the restaurant might be before we hammer out the details of fair wages and responsible use of school money. It'll much easier to build a bar-inn-hotel with good labor from the ground up, rather than let some typical project get built so we can worry about it after the fact.

  15. 0
    A project in search of a reason to exist says:

    One nice restaurant within walking distance of the college does not "great good places" make. One reason behind the wet/dry movement is to allow for the possibility that other establishments may benefit from the same attraction as is presently the exclusive property of the proposed inn. That would benefit (at least economically) the town. There's actually very little benefit to the town in the currently proposed project;

    Lodging – there's actually a very modest demand for this from the borough residents. Oh, there's some, and it'll be nice to service that, but the B&B owners and surrounding hotels and motels have all weighed in that occupancy rates are quite low and much of that – the vast majority – is from visitors to the college and the county seat.

    Dining – no one will dispute the need for more and better dining options convenient to borough residents. The proposed white tablecloth venue would be a welcome addition. However, people like variety – it's one of the reasons why Media is so popular. Did you know there are approximately 40 restaurants in Media with liquor licenses and about that many again without? So, while having a new place in town is good, it won’t be kept afloat by residents, nor should the owners expect too much business from people flocking to this “destination.” Not when far more interesting destinations are within just a couple of miles.

    The bookstore – if ever there was a pitiful business to invest money in, it’s a brick and mortar bookstore. Worse still is one that doesn’t sell titles popular with the public – when’s the last time a non-faculty borough resident just had to have a copy of a textbook? Readers buy their hardcopy and softcopy books online to an ever-increasing degree. B&N is declaring bankruptcy and shuttering stores. Borders will follow. While the college needs to make their bookstore ADA-compliant and relocating seems the only practical means, there’s certainly no benefit to the town having this business in town center.

    Tax Revenues – often hyped, it turns out the borough will receive very, very little in terms of added revenues. So too, the school district will see an amount so inconsequential that it’s laughable that the college administration and borough government have been talking about this (never with figures quoted) as a major boon to the town.

    So, the inn is simply for the benefit of the college, not the town, despite much reference to “town and gown.” Well, that’s fine. If the college wants to invest its money ($14-16 million ?) in the project, there’s not much the borough can do anymore … the conditional use variants were approved years ago. But don’t take public money (RACP grant) to fund a private enterprise and don’t seek even more government money – as has been suggested.

    And don’t blow smoke up the collective skirts of the residents of Swarthmore by saying this is for us.

  16. 0
    Timothy Burke says:

    I was at a conference at Middlebury College last semester. It was kind of nice to stay in a cute little inn right near the campus. It was even nicer that there were several good restaurants and a pub on the way up to the campus. There were students as well as faculty, staff and locals eating lunch in the moderately expensive restaurant down near the river. There were faculty, staff and local people and visiting parents in the pub. Maybe 21-year old students too, but harder to tell. I thought this made Middlebury the town and Middlebury the college and Middlebury the community a nicer place than Swarthmore in this one particular respect. The same would be true of Amherst, Williams, many of our peer institutions.

    "Great good places" are important for community formation. They nurture discussions that aren't directly instrumental to some specific purpose. Conversations outside of the classroom, conversations that aren't about some narrow work-related agenda, are what most of us think makes a residential college actually work as a distinctive form of education.

    I get that some of the students feel like they have everything they need in this respect already, or some are too hipster to want "overpriced drinks", or that they think that walking down to the bottom of the hill is such an extraordinary physical exertion that faculty and staff won't bother. Ok. Leave a little space in your hearts for the possibility that there might be people who feel differently, many of them people who will live and work here for more than the 4 years that you will be here. It's not always about you.

    If you want a sense of the subtle but crucial differences that a non-instrumental space can make to community feeling, just look at Science Commons. Before Kohlberg and Science Commons were built, there were those who saw building those kinds of gathering spaces as an improvident waste of resources and who complained that sushi and expensive coffee and so on were an exclusionary, elitist waste. I see a lot of folks lining up for fried rice and sushi each day. More importantly, I see a lot of great conversations that come out of people just hanging around in those spaces that would not happen otherwise.

    Not everybody in the town or the faculty want even a small project of this kind. I hear that. The last liquor vote was pretty much 50-50, which goes a long way to underscoring that there is a continuing depth of feeling about the basic idea.

    The labor issue is a real one, worth discussing. The financials are a real issue, worth discussing. But there's nothing self-evidently bad about a facility that could make it easier, more comfortable and more attractive to host conferences and visitors, could provide more social space, etc. There's nothing self-evidently bad about a good restaurant and bar right next to campus unless your hairshirt is about four sizes too tight.

  17. 0
    alum says:

    Swatties,

    Do you know what would dramatically improve your educational experience? Better conferences. Do you know what Swat lacks hardcore? A good place for conferences. Labor rights are great, restaurants are lame, blah blah blah, but seriously, a conference center type place would make a lot of sense for improving your access to new research.

  18. 0
    Not me says:

    I'm pretty sure the students and residents involved in having a referendum actually believe a vote should happen. I don't see how anyone reasonably thinks this vote on liquor would actually lead to better labor standards anyway. The administration has delineated their decision-making process regarding the possible implementation of a neutrality agreement or lack thereof. They're going to have more panels and experts before making any decision.

    Whether Swarthmore is wet or dry is a whole different issue altogether. And an important one at that because small businesses in town need to have the same privilege to profit from alcohol sales as the college hotel and restaurants in order to survive. Why should the college of all places be the only joint in town with a liquor license? Does anyone else find that notion a bit absurd?

    Plus, even if the vote did go dry (I really don't think it would), that would just mean the hotel would not be selling overpriced drinks at their white tablecloth restaurant that most students can't afford anyway. I really don't think it would have a drastic impact on anything else.

    Wet or dry?
    no middle ground
    Who wants to live in a damp town?

  19. 0
    The campus will still be wet says:

    @Careful what you wish for

    Swarthmore's already a dry town, with an unfair exception carved out for "hotels located on the property of an accredited college or university in the Borough of Swarthmore." The vote would just make things more equal–so that the other places in town could apply for a liquor license (e.g. Hobb's, Aria's, Renatos, and possibly other new restaurants??).

    This vote wouldn't affect things on campus because the laws govern liquor sales, which no one in town currently does. You can't buy alcohol on campus, though of course you can consume it. So, fellow students, no need to be scared of a "dry" campus. Lolz.

  20. 0
    Hannah Jones says:

    @ Where can I get this job?

    Prefacing your link with "I'm sorry, but…" does not in any way excuse the COMPLETE inappropriateness of taking pictures of Swarthmore employees and posting them on the internet. If you have issues with the amount of work they do (issues that I can't help but think are completely lacking in actual research on the activities of the EVS staff), go talk to someone who works with them, rather than posting disrespectful pictures on a blog accompanied by uninformed vitriol about the people who keep your dorm clean and stocked.

    I really appreciate the amount of work the EVS staff puts in to making our lives run smoothly at Swat. It takes an incredible amount of work to keep dorms and academic buildings clean, between vacuuming, picking up our trash, cleaning up messes from spilled food to vomit, scrubbing toilets, mopping floors, restocking toilet paper and soap, etc. As students, I doubt we see the amount of work the EVS staff does. It makes me sad to see students expressing such disrespect and ingratitude.

  21. 0
    Careful what you wish for says:

    If students are keen on the idea of having an up or down vote on "wet or dry", they should think a little further about what that might mean in future. If "dry" wins, it may very well become drier here on campus. Is that what you want, or is this really a ploy to connect the inn and a supposed idea of "fair labor" with this legislation as a way to slow or stop the project?

  22. 0
    Neutral on neutrality says:

    This is a minor side issue, but to reassure those worried about the softball equipment:

    "I'm still pissed they're building this thing right on top of the softball field, right after that all that money was raised to put up the new fence and scoreboard."

    The fencing and scoreboard can and will be moved and reused at the softball field's new location. The only loss would be the posts sunk in concrete, and those can be replaced.

  23. 0
    Swarthmore is not a charity says:

    @ Swarthmore teaches charity-

    You wrote, "Be real, I'm not saying we should cut classroom costs to feed the poor–I'm talking about skimming a portion of the hotel profits to make ourselves, and the inheritors of this institution, proud. "

    No, that is exactly what you're saying. Pretending a tradeoff between Swarthmore spending and not spending extra money on higher wages is, as I wrote before, contemptibly quixotic. If you recognize the tradeoff does exist, then we'll just have to disagree about how Swarthmore should best 'educate' its students.

  24. 0
    intellectual living room or gentlemen's club ? says:

    Another person has already commented on the absurdity of having to schlep all the way to the far edge of campus in order to engage in intellectual discourse. With so many suitable and available (take a tour day or eve) spaces on campus, is it really to be expected that faculty will lemming their way to the hotel for discussion? Of course not.

    But what of the students? Are they going to join with their faculty for such discussions in such a setting? The restaurant has always been described as "white tablecloth" (i.e., higher priced). Are the faculty going to treat the students to dinner and a drink? Of course not.

    So this facility, built on college property, currently rationalized as supportive of the academic environment, will effectively exclude the majority of the college population. I doubt you'll find a whole lot of the faculty frequenting the place either – when the price of conversation is $35-45 a head, cracking open a bottle in someone's living room sounds a lot more practical.

    Why don’t we call it what it is – an expensive place for the well-heeled of the town and gown to go to escape the not-so-well-heeled.

  25. 0
    Joan Urban says:

    Thanks to the college board of managers and administrators for their hard work on the challenging problem of the construction of a campus inn and restaurant. Unfortunately, I have been looking at the map posted on the college website regarding the inn complex and am very distressed at the opportunities for traffic flow depicted in the current plan. The exit route from the inn, or the entrance route to 320 once the side of Station Square adjacent to Clothier Fields/the proposed complex is removed to meet regulations for a traffic light, is very long and circuitous. I;m wondering if this to be a one-lane and one-way road. One problem I see is that people going to the ville to shop will be very unlikely to choose that route to make their exit, due to its length, indirectness, its bends and kinks, and at times, the heavy congestion by the fieldhouse due to athletic events and camps, and at times the congestion due to events at the Presbyterian Church. Instead, I'd expect that local shoppers will use the residential streets — Meyers,Dartmouth, Lafayette, Park, Harvard, and so on. Unfortunately, these roads are poorly configured for increased traffic, with cars parked on both sides of the street leaving a passageway sufficient for only one vehicle in some areas, no sidewalk in others, semis and other delivery vehicles blocking Meyers Ave. at times, bending roads, and so on along these already well-travelled streets and intersections. Children cross both Meyers and Dartmouth Avenues frequently at all times of the year, indeed these roads intersect the primary route of travel for small children to the local elementary school. With increased traffic and poor visibility where those streets intersect South Princeton, I can easily imagine that a crossing guard will need to be funded by the school district, likely one for each street (or shall we pay for more bussing within Swarthmore?). A similar situation may arise where College Ave. intersects North Princeton. The notion that the inn complex will "give a nudge" financially to the ville sounds good, but in reality I think the traffic issues (both during and after the construction) combined with the fact that inn patrons will likely not be inclined to shop much in the ville (the one or two consultants who assessed the economic impact of the development concluded "it would add little dollar value to the town") will lead to financial losses for the businesses in the town center. Who would pay, as one issue, to upgrade Meyers Ave. to sustain increased through traffic? I'm not sure that board members who do not live here are aware of the magnitude of these likely challenges to safety and also to the pocketbook of the local taxpayer.

  26. 0
    Sebastian LaCroix says:

    Oh, lord, Swatties. For the love of our elite liberal arts education, everyone (_everyone_) please avoid going down the slippery slope of associating our unique little snowflake of a manifestation of labor conflict to what's going down in Wisconsin et al. (Setting aside the question of the justness/lack thereof of the SLAP movement. Or–heavens!–nuanced, non-dichotomous picture therein!)

  27. 0
    Disappointed says:

    Doesn't our campus have enough "intellectual living rooms?" I always thought Swarthmore College was one of the most intellectual colleges in the country, and there are plenty of spaces actually on campus to have discussions–they're called classrooms and seminar rooms and lecture halls and lounges and lounges. This rationale for a multi-million dollar project is preposterous. How are an inn and restaurant better for intellectual discussion than Swarthmore's very own campus spaces?

    "Let's go all the way down the hill past the train statiom to talk about these ideas amidst the clanging dishes and hotel guests checking in and out!!" Yeah right. Can't the administrators find some better way to utilize the school's resources?

  28. 0
    William says:

    “If we cannot be certain that concrete protections for the future employees will be in place, we will work to make sure the community is able to have a vote on an issue that would affect the Town Center West project, regarding the granting of liquor licenses,”

    Excellent use of pretending to take the moral high ground to exert leverage.

    Some SLAP members might have a bright future in collective bargaining

  29. 0
    clear cutter says:

    yo am wood, just did some looking at your blog, and my conclusion is this:

    go swuck yourself.

    also, I think that without the internet your body too may die. you seem to have little existence outside of it. don't worry, it's not going anywhere anytime soon.

  30. 0
    swarthmore teaches charity says:

    @ Swarthmore is not a charity:

    Who's to say that in providing an eduction precludes ethical business practices? And is there not some value in educating students about alternatives to businesses that will justify any profits simply to increase them? What I'm saying is that there is not merely "something to be said for making sure the college maintains its conscience"–there is something to be fought and paid for, and that's higher wages–higher wages for hotel employees.

    ….oh, and thanks for telling me I deserve contempt. I see nothing more contemptible about my hope for fairer economy than your fiery allegiance to the idea of a college as a socially-blind education machine. Be real, I'm not saying we should cut classroom costs to feed the poor–I'm talking about skimming a portion of the hotel profits to make ourselves, and the inheritors of this institution, proud.

    But enough of the abstracted ideological bickering: it's nonsense to think the school can't afford to pay fair (living) wages at the hotel. That's what this is about.

    Bread & Roses

  31. 0
    Find somewhere else says:

    I'm still pissed they're building this thing right on top of the softball field, right after that all that money was raised to put up the new fence and scoreboard.

    Can't they consider any alternatives? What about renovating an existing structure like Rebecca did at Colgate? Why not turn ML into the inn and build a new dorm somewhere?

  32. 0
    Swarthmore is not a charity says:

    Bread & Roses-

    You wrote, "But instead of grafting the corporate business model onto our school, SLAP and other students are making the point that Swarthmore must do more than the bare minimum of good investing, and that the school must pay to ensure the more than competitive wages on which people could actually live."

    While there is something to be said for making sure the college maintains its conscience, students must keep in mind that the college appropriately specializes in providing an education, not doing charity work. And your apparent rejection of the 'so-called free market' and characterization of such rejection as admirable evidences a quixotism that deserves contempt.

  33. 0
    Bread & Roses says:

    Danielle, it seems you are talking down to your peers: as if we haven't "grasped the concept" of an investment, that we think we need 100% agreement to move forward with the hotel, or that we somehow want our strong disagreement about the project to translate into a totalizing condemnation of our otherwise excellent college. Please give us more credit, and let's talk about what is really at stake.

    The hotel (I avoid the use of "inn" cause it smacks of a contrived homeliness that I don't see any reason to convey) is most likely going to be built. And surely, it will make money. In addition to our hopes for conferences and alumni bedding, the hotel is designed to make money. But instead of grafting the corporate business model onto our school, SLAP and other students are making the point that Swarthmore must do more than the bare minimum of good investing, and that the school must pay to ensure the more than competitive wages on which people could actually live.

    Aside from all the talk of unionization and card check, what most appalls me is that the school has yet to agree the hotel workers will be hired according to the Living Wage policy. While of course I don't imagine that Swarthmore will be the most ruthless employer (because we're all so nice and smart and have a uniform idea of what social justice looks like…), I can't see any reason for the school to avoid its Living Wage commitment other than to circumvent it.

    Do you think the school should hire the hotel workers as per our Living Wage policy? Remember, Living Wage is a Swarthmore policy that sets us apart from your run-of-the-mill investor. Rather than gripe your peers haven't "grasped the concept of an investment", perhaps you should be more diligent in grasping the concept of a school that is working admirably to reject the dictates of a so-called free market.

  34. 0
    Will '11 says:

    Whoops, should offer text from error message: "The change you wanted was rejected. Maybe you tried to change something you didn't have access to."

  35. 0
    Will '11 says:

    Coincidentally, this is the error message I got when I tried to vote in the Phoenix's poll on whether the town should be dry or not. http://min.us/mvj18Uu (link to screenshot at Min.us)

    I'd like to clarify that I also think SLAP has really good intentions, but I don't agree with their methods.

  36. 0
    Danielle,'14 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    I'm not sure the protestors have grasped the concept of an investment. The proposed inn will presumably foster increased, more enjoyable visits from prospective students. As it now stands, families are caught between economy box motels on the pike or very expensive, impersonal hotels in the city. Additionally, more conferences, alumni trips, etc. boost the notoriety and image of the College–clearly an importnat factor in maintaining a healthy endowment. If talking about the endowment makes you think the College is money-minded, how else do you propose keeping up our elaborate operations, all on the tuitions of a mere 1500 students?

    With the inn, the economy of the town will also get a nudge. Most residents are behind the endeavor. Is there 100% support? No. Put when have businesses ever convinced an entire population before going forward? If that's a standard for construction, we'd be living in a forrest.

    There is no evidence that our president or board is in the midst of some slick business move. In fact, I'm really embarrassed by peers who would suggest that of our rather excellent administration. Comparing the tomato shortage in the dining hall to the inn expenses is absurd. Next time you squawk about the College's finances, consider how wonderfully generous financial aid tends to be, not to mention money spent on student activities, proposals, etc. Sure, we all have minor complaints here and there, but let's PLEASE not think that masquerading as petitioners in the Ville in order to slap our college in the face (pun somewhat intended) is noble.

  37. 0
    Will '11 says:

    I would buy a Swarthmore Monopoly game.

    As to the real issue, it seems to be complex and worthy of debate. I see the administration bringing people versed in the issue to campus, and so I'm willing to hear what they say and not assume that they will attempt to screw over the (at this point) theoretical workers. What evidence do we (the peanut gallery) have that the College is an unfair employer? What record of poor working conditions or violations of our established values are there that justify what seems to be a whole-hearted assault on the character and intentions of a lot of good people?

    No, the demand for a neutrality agreement was not yielded to, but that's hardly a statement of intent to become fascist oppressors.

  38. 0
    Bob Dole says:

    Did anyone else find it funny that at the SLAP protest, everyone was shouting vehemently for "Neutrality"?

    I thought it was kind of ironic.

  39. 0
    alum99 says:

    "But they represent a sub-group of the student body. To have the College not even include their ideas in their recommendation to the board is a huge slap in the face. Pardon the pun. "

    The board is plenty aware of SLAP and their demands. After all, this isn't the first time this issue has come up.

    Also, just because they're vocal and use dirty tactics for petitioning doesn't mean they're more important than any other group on campus. If the whole campus was aware/care about this issue, this group would probably be in the minority for their sheer ridiculousness. It is another in a long history of misguided student activism.

  40. 0
    alum99 says:

    SLAP doesn't care about much except for their agenda: Getting Swat to use union labor. The bottom line is, the Inn won't get built if they use union labor, due to the much higher costs. Dozens of jobs will never be created. Does SLAP care about this? Nope. They want to feel important about themselves and put a line in their resumes.

    On top of all this, they're being devious in going around collecting signatures for a vote on whether the town should be dry. They do not tell you they're doing this to blackmail the college.

    In a couple of years, they'll have graduated and the town will be the one to face the consequences of stagnating growth and job loss.

  41. 0
    Soren Larson says:

    i like voting-

    SLAP's intentions here are transparent. First it should be noted that SLAP is spearheading this vote drive. Given that there are all sorts of ways for SLAP to protect worker rights, and even SLAP members must have some limits on their free time, it's clear that they've decided that the best way to support their agenda is by bringing this issue to vote. It seems they believe, as most do, that Swarthmore residents will vote against making alcohol available in the ville, thus nullifying the exception the college has achieved.

    Finally, it should be reported that SLAP sent a thug to pub night last night to get the signatures of intoxicated students! In light of students' previous criticisms of SLAP for misrepresenting the genuineness of its petition results, it's pretty shocking that they'd aim to get signatures from intoxicated students. This action puts into question the group's integrity.

  42. 0
    i like voting says:

    i really like the idea of having a vote on whether swarthmore's wet or dry. i know there are many students and residents involved and excited about the effort. the state laws only allow such a vote during this feb-march time period once every two years, so you all can stop griping about the timing. it's not like people have a choice.

    but the question of whether swarthmore is wet/dry is an important issue. thankfully the students at this school care enough to work with the residents to help make sure it happens. call it "thuggery" or "retaliatory" all you like, but at the end of the day, it's an important referendum on a relevant issue in a planning process that hasn't really been very democratic thus far. let's have a vote already.

  43. 0
    Soren Larson says:

    “If we cannot be certain that concrete protections for the future employees will be in place, we will work to make sure the community is able to have a vote on an issue that would affect the Town Center West project, regarding the granting of liquor licenses,” SLAP wrote in its letter to the Town Center West Committee.

    This sounds like thuggery; kind of like that for which unions are known. lol.

  44. 0
    a ton of money says:

    D'11, riddle me this. You say "It's not going to cost a ton of money. The college has said that they're looking for more grants and alumni donors to help pay for it."

    Now, this might be me. But I'd like to have our Alumni Relations office heckling alumni for money that's going to have a direct impact on the students. If they can finagle money out of alumni and get grants for building this hotel, complex, town center (whatever it is — it is NOT an "inn.")

    On a different note, I don't really know or "stand behind" what SLAP does. But they represent a sub-group of the student body. To have the College not even include their ideas in their recommendation to the board is a huge slap in the face. Pardon the pun.

    The study of the economic viability of an inn that was taken in the '90s still has yet to surface. They must be sitting on some really positive results. I bet the inn's implicit "viability" is amplified by the fact that we're in a recession! Yay transparency and amplification!

    I can think of plenty of uses for these alumni donations. Tomatoes, hiring professors, hiring more student workers, new field house, an orientation play, flashlights AND candles. The list goes on.

  45. 0
    Peter '11 ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    “If we cannot be certain that concrete protections for the future employees will be in place, we will work to make sure the community is able to have a vote on an issue that would affect the Town Center West project, regarding the granting of liquor licenses,” SLAP wrote in its letter to the Town Center West Committee.

    Wow, that is so slimy.

  46. 0
    D '11 says:

    I'd like to put it on record that not all students share the views that the students here do.

    – It's not going to cost a ton of money. The college has said that they're looking for more grants and alumni donors to help pay for it.

    – Certainly, labor rights are important, and if it actually came to hiring workers through an exploitative subcontractor or something, then students should absolutely be up in arms about it. But it's not like the administration is trying to crush the common folk beneath its iron heel. They're bringing experts on the matter (with a range of views, not just people actively involved in advocating neutrality agreements, and honestly bringing hotel workers from a big-box hotel really isn't that relevant either) for a discussion soon. The broad student support that SLAP says it enjoys is extremely shallow — no more than a handful of students are actually educated on the issues, rather than just signing things that say "of course I support worker's rights." We should absolutely make sure that labor rights are supported, and SLAP's advocacy can and should be an important part of that. But acting like it should already be a done deal is just silly, especially considering that the path the inn development would take wasn't even entirely clear until very recently.

    – The retaliatory liquor vote thing is just plain stupid. I do think that Swarthmore should be a wet borough. But that's pretty unlikely to happen; the only outcome of bringing it to a vote (especially at a time when many students won't be on campus) would be repealing the inn's liquor license, which is just petty. The college is going to spend the money anyway — wouldn't you rather see it have a better chance of succeeding? And complaining about a monopoly doesn't really make sense when it's by your own choice. Yes, maybe Rudi's wouldn't have folded as fast if it could have served drinks — but the inn's advantage over other Ville restaurants is one that's shared by essentially every other restaurant in the area.

  47. 0
    Daniel Symonds says:

    Re: Swarthmore and the Monopoly Board, please check out this brilliant Phoenix cartoon.

    http://www.swarthmorephoenix.com/2011/02/24/opinions/boroughs-liquor-laws-should-be-reexamined-now/images/27716

    Beyond the glitz and fun of this sketch, though, the inn has serious implications about whether the college believes in its own living wage policy. Living wage was fought tooth and nail against the administration, but now the school historicizes our decent wages as the inevitable fruit of its good conscience. Like living wage, the greening of swarthmore, de-segregation, and many measures before it, Swarthmore will not have anything to be proud of without
    students, staff, and faculty who are willing to reject the lame and uncreative justifications of bad practice in the name of good business. We are a school that aims to set a social model, not a hotel chain hoping to corner the Borough market.

    The differences between "college employees…[but] not in the same way" and a workplace where employees have the right to unionize are stark. The hotel industry is one of the most exploitative in the region, and there's no reason why our school, of all places, can't pay the extra amount to ensure that everyone, inn employees or otherwise, has access to livelihoods that preserve human health, happiness, and dignity.

    And to all you recalcitrant Board members, you're embarrassing us.

  48. 0
    it just feels dirty says:

    To Unhappy:
    Many of us are wondering the same thing, that fence cost ALOT of money only to be taken down a year or two later while the ground is dug up for the inns' utilities. For those who didn't get a raise for 2 years in a row, and the tiny one they did receive this last go around, this must seem like a kick while they're already down.

  49. 0
    Unhappy says:

    This article speaks very highly of this inn, which sounds like an excellent idea. But it does not mention its location. I'm still just wondering as to why it must be built on the softball field. Why does the softball field have to be built again in a different location where the inn could easily be? The alumni of Swarthmore softball just donated a large sum of money that was put into a fence and a scoreboard, and now it is all going to be destroyed. I think this was not given enough consideration in the process.

  50. 0
    do not pass go says:

    yeah, this is ridiculous.

    welcome to swarthmore mall, where $50,000 a year will buy you control of the town!

    when will the bookstore start carrying our very own swarthmore monopoly board>

  51. 0
    No Glitz, No Glory says:

    What has happened to Swarthmore College and its conscience? The president sounds more like a slick developer than a Quaker college leader, as she spins the benefits of a hotel/restaurant/conference complex that the College admits no commercial developer would support (i.e., because it was not financially viable despite free College land, a $2 million state grant, and College subsidies). Now, for the first time in 10 years, the rationale morphs into the College needing an "intellectual living room"? The College must have more than 100 existing, great meeting spaces, classrooms and theaters that currently serve "intellectual" purposes and frequently host interdisciplinary discussions, right on the main campus. Now it wants to plow under a beautiful, open section of its backyard on the lower campus, cut down its trees, and call it a "living room"? I can see the headlines now, "Swarthmore's Own Bellagio!" Does the College just have more money than it knows what to do with? Does the legacy of the open campus and green space have no value? Why not sponsor something that serves the community and preserves it, rather than diverting tens of millions of dollars to a commercial enterprise? Wake up, Swarthmore College, if you don't act, your mission may be changed from a Quaker institution of academic rigor and activism into a commercial enterprise where coddling the affluent with "upscale" dining and hotel amenities is the new driving force.

  52. 0
    How much? says:

    Question for the DG:
    How much money is the college putting into this inn project? What are the estimated total costs of construction, operation, and all of the planning that's gone into this project?

    It just seems completely unbelievable that the college suddenly has millions to spend on this after cutting 7 million dollars from the budget last year. What happened to the tight budget? And why all the fiscal austerity measures placed on students? No tomatoes at Sharples, cutbacks on "expensive" veggies, no Orientation play, half the number of CA's, and really, no candles at First Collection??? But how many thousands wasted for hotel industry consultants and lawyer fees? Not to mention the costs of building and running the hotel. According to the Chair of the Board of Managers, the endowment's recovered well since the recession–so what gives? Why are we dumping money into this black hole and cutting back on things students value?

    I thought the college was supposed to be in the business of educating, but I guess I thought wrong. Either way, I'd love to know more about the costs of this thing, you know, with all the "transparency" and everything.

  53. 0
    Living wage? ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    More subcontracting, really Chopp???

    On page 15 of the report from the Living Wage Committee, in a section called “Challenges of Unintended Negative Consequences”,:

    D. Contracting out for services

    We want to ensure that contracting jobs out to private vendors is not a means for the College to get around the enhanced-low wage compensation policy in order to save money. The Committee’s view is that it would be unacceptable to turn to outside contractors in response to implementation of the kind of compensation policy we are recommending.

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