Between classes, Kansas University students can be found on “the beach.”
Although nowhere near water, the area in front of Wescoe Hall on KU’s main campus called Wescoe Beach is a popular student hangout. Wescoe’s central location along Jayhawk Boulevard and variety of departments encompassed by the hall generate high traffic, and the sprawling design draws student activities and provides a place to take a break.
Renovations to the area instigated by the student body promise to make the area even more useful and attractive.
Named for Chancellor W. Clarke Wescoe, who lobbied for construction of the building in the 1960s, Wescoe Hall was to contain both classrooms and offices, and centralize various departments that were dispersed across campus, according to KU’s website. The facility serves as a liberal arts hub, accommodating nine different liberal arts departments, two lecture halls, 300 offices and about 60 classrooms. Wescoe Hall also houses the Academic Resource Center, a languages lab, the Writing Center and Word Processing Center. The Wescoe Terrace Food Court made renovations in 2011 on The Underground, a student eatery and hangout located on Wescoe Hall’s basement level.
According to Student Body Vice President Brandon Woodard, “The Wescoe Beach renovation idea was generated from students. It was included in the 2011-2012 administration’s platform initiatives, and former student body president and vice president Libby Johnson and Gabe Bliss were involved in the proposal and collaborations.”
The improvements were outlined in a bill authored by Johnson and Bliss and sponsored by eight influential executive staff and senators, in addition to KU administrators such as Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little and Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Jeff Vitter, says Woodard.
The renovations aim to improve both the aesthetic appeal and functionality of the heavily utilized Wescoe Beach area. The raised planters that doubled as seating will be removed so that deteriorated concrete paving may be replaced. Tables will be added and concrete seat-walls will be installed to ensure students still have a place to sit and relax. Installation of additional electrical outlets will allow more students to work on their laptops or recharge their phones. Woodard explains that additional lighting will also “increase safety during night hours” and “make the space more usable to students. The new design will also provide more space for traffic and student activities while making it more attractive with additional canopy shade trees, planters and other items of artistic value, Woodard says.
Peg Livingood, of KU’s Office of Design and Construction Management and project manager for the Wescoe Beach renovations, said the estimated construction cost for the project is $250,000 and total project costs are an anticipated $297,000. Funding is provided by the Student Senate, which assigned $100,000 to the project, matched by the Office of the Chancellor. The Campus Safety Advisory Board provided $50,000, matched by the Office of the Provost, according to Woodard.
Livingood is optimistic about the outcome of the project. “There were early discussions to discern the appropriate budget for the project,” she said. “But there has been broad support throughout the KU community for this project.”
Bill Daehler, a graduate student in political science, says he is all for the project, “as long as what they are doing makes it more aesthetically pleasing.” However, he wouldn’t mind KU funding being put toward “paying professors more” or “new academic technology.”
“I think it is one of the smartest renovations,” says Alyssa Detwiler, an undergraduate student in psychology and anthropology. “When I’m walking around campus at night, passing Wescoe is usually inevitable, but it’s always so dark. I think a lot of places on campus need to be a little more well lit to make us feel safer at night.”
She added, “Ideally the trees will make it a little prettier and hanging out on the beach between classes more enjoyable.”
“I believe this project will allow a positive environment for students to come together, interact with one another, and have valuable space where they can feel at ease outside of the classroom,” Woodard said. “I can’t wait to see the finished product.”