The Student Government Association (SGA) lit the fireplace in the O’Connor Campus Center (the Coop) for the first time in approximately three years on November 1. The SGA celebrated the occasion by hosting the first of its monthly Fireside Chats, in which SGA members, the administration and students meet over cookies, coffee and hot chocolate to discuss student governance issues. The event was an opportunity to foster communication between SGA and the student body. Junior Frances Hodgins, who is SGA election commissioner, explains that the Fireside Chats accomplish “the first step of telling [students] what we are
doing and then getting their feedback from there.” Student demand helped drive the SGA executive board’s most recent effort to have the fireplace turned on. Hodgins, along with sophomore Samuel Flood, who is parliamentarian, headed the project.
Since the renovation of the Coop during the 2003-2004 academic year, the fireplace had been lit 24/7 for six months out of the year until spring 2009.
At that time, the cost of operation was about $7,500 per year.
“Such an approach seemed wasteful from a financial and carbon emissions perspective, so it was changed,” Vice President for Finance & Administration David Hale said.
Although the fireplace will no longer be used 24/7, its operation is still expensive. With rising fuel costs, each gallon of propane burned costs $2.74. Together the two burners consume .6 gallons per hour. This year fixing a broken burner added to the financial expense of turning on the fireplace.
This is not the first time that efforts have been made since 2008 to continue operating the fireplace.
“People have tried before, but for whatever reason they did not connect,” Flood said.
“Colgate is willing and able to accommodate student’s request for the operation of the fireplace, but, we should work together to develop a solution that makes sense and is not wasteful,” Hale said.
Hodgins and Flood gained approval for operating the fireplace after a series of e-mails with Buildings and Grounds’ Associate Director of Facilities and Manager of Engineering Service Peter Babich and Associate Director of Facilities and Manager of Environmental Services Robert Pills.
Within two weeks of their first inquiries, Hodgins and Flood had negotiated a schedule during which students would operate the fireplace.
“This is the first time that they have handed it over to the students…but so far it is going really well,” Hodgins said.
Despite the environmental and financial drawbacks of operating the fireplace, lighting it has several benefits for the student body.
“It would be good for student life and creates a good space,” Hodgins said.
In addition, it may attract students who live down the hill to study at the Coop.
“If people had a place to study up here, it would help foster a good community,” Flood said.
Student feedback to having the fireplace lit has been “overwhelmingly positive” according to Flood. Many are pleased that they are finally seeing the fireplace, which they heard about during their tour of Colgate as a high school student, being used during their time here.
Currently, the fireplace is lit on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Contact Anna D’Alessandro at [email protected]