Ellsworth Hall Renovation: New Entrance, New Options

Western Reserve Academy’s hallowed grounds have recently witnessed the greatest renovation and transformation they have seen in recent memory. Machines cover the lawn’s wide sweep, while dirt, scaffolding and debris detract from its once radiant green. One of the many buildings that have undergone changes in the past year is Ellsworth Hall: both the site for WRA’s dining and a dorm for girls upstairs.

Unfortunately, the students of WRA are caught in between many transitions and are apprehensive. WRA has rung the bells of change, and now a look of ugliness and uncomfortability has set in. In moments like these, it is important to look at the details which will bring about happiness for today and hope for tomorrow.

It is a marvel to see how the flow of students, faculty, staff, and guests has vastly improved from the hastily renovated Dining Hall of last winter. The “Exhibition Bar” is now located in a more efficient place. The rice station is now situated by the sandwich bar, and brand new “Chef’s Whim” has been delivering some of the most consistent plates of wonder and presentation to ever emerge from the Dining Hall. After years of “4A” and “4B” lunches, the WRA Administration’s distrust in the idea that the student body could finish eating in a single one hour time frame was finally proven wrong.

The issues caused by backpacks that have occurred in years past in the main entrance of the Dining Hall, however, have yet to be solved. Instead, they have only moved to inside the south end of the Dining Hall. Deemed a safety hazard, backpacks were to be left outside, away from the entrances and atriums. While renovating Ellsworth over the summer, large wooden bins were constructed just inside the North entrance in order to organize the backpacks and prevent dangerous build ups near the doors. This solution for the backpack problem appears to have unequivocally and disastrously failed. The student body has spoken through words and actions: the bins do not work. Multitudes of students refuse to use the bins, leaving their backpacks on the floor inside the entrance or outside on the ground and even choose to leave their backpacks outside in the dirt, dust, and leaves.

In addition to the backpack bins, the East entrance of the Dining Hall has been closed to improve the flow of traffic within the dining hall. While, admittedly, the closed east doors have seemed to improve flow of traffic, students now must walk all the way to the south entrance to enter the dining hall. Besides the fact this is a difficult habit to break, the location exacerbates the problem. With many classes in the Learning Center or the Murdough Athletic Center, many students are now approaching the building from the north and must walk even further to reach food. But their struggle pales in comparison to those residing in Ellsworth Hall. One frustrated Ellsworth resident, who wishes to remain anonymous, explained. “The ludicrosity of me walking all the way around Ellsworth to get a bowl of cereal is a real pain in the butt. I have better, more important things to stress over.” It is unclear if the design arrangments will change during the coming Winter season.

Dean of Students Wendy Skinner recently announced that the East doors will be open for breakfast and dinner, but the doors will continue to be locked and sometimes even barricaded by chairs during lunch.

Aside from these dilemmas, there is also the issue of the deserted patio. One consequence of having the new entrance is that the natural flow of people no longer lends itself to the natural gatherings that formerly happened on the Ellsworth patio. The patio has lost a touch of its former self, and along with it, WRA has lost a tradition.

One cannot truly decide the impact of the Ellsworth renovations until the metamorphosis of WRA has been completed. The Dining Hall has brought new improvements to the lives of the student body but also myriad issues. Transformation can be hard, and the differences between the WRA of old and the current state of campus can be uncomfortable to accept, but all the WRA community can do is face the changes.

– Manas Srinivasaiah ’18

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