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New furniture in Mills Hall raises questions

Last month, the Mills Hall living room went through extensive refurnishing. Navy blue couches and chocolate brown leather chairs replaced lighter-colored couches and chairs in a palette of pink, orange and white. Mahogany end tables replaced oak ones.

According to Admissions Counselor Vala Burnett, the darker color scheme was chosen to tie in with the portrait of Aurelia Henry Reinhardt on the east wall of the room.

New furniture in Mills Hall. (Nicole Vermeer)

Admissions Counselor Ashley Battle, who meets with prospective students in Mills Hall, said she likes the new renovations.

“It looks better. It looks newer and more modern,” she said. Campus architect Karen Fiene agreed. “It fits the new building better, in my opinion. It used to look more like it belonged in a hotel lobby in Florida,” she said. “It has been almost 20 years since the last remodel.”

According to Fiene, Mills Hall was a priority for renovation because it represents “the front door of campus” – the living room is usually the first indoor space prospective students and parents see when visiting the College.

“On paper [tuition] costs almost $50,000. This makes it look like we’re worth it,” Burnett said.

“It definitely makes us look like we have more money,” said first-year Ashley Redfield.

Still, she said the renovation lacks the cozy atmosphere of the old arrangement.

“It needed a remodel, but it doesn’t have the same feeling, the same comfortable oldness as many buildings on campus do,” said Redfield.

The new round table. (Nicole Vermeer)

Jadushlever said the renovations were funded out of an endowment restricted to Mills Hall. “There was a maintenance endowment that allowed for that purchase,” she said.

She said it is the College’s goals to have endowments for all buildings to help fund upgrades.

An outside contractor was responsible for the remodel, and Fiene and Vice President of Operations Renee Jadushlever both said it was difficult to determine the actual cost to give to Campanil reporters.

“It is hard to compare projects, as each one has different needs. Some involve electrical or mechanical work, others involve design work or need a contractor and these costs become a part of the total project cost,” said Fiene.

She said the College received a discount for renovation costs because it is an educational institution. The painting was done in-house, which also saved money.

Some students aren’t convinced the changes were necessary or worth the cost.

“My biggest concern is, instead of wasting money on this, couldn’t they spend it on painting the outside, or new computers, or maybe rehiring the janitorial staff?” said sophomore Anna Moreno.

Fiene said there are many considerations that go into any renovation on campus and that the decision is not made just by one person, but instead goes through a series of departments.

“For this project, the campus planning, architects and facilities staff worked with a vendor to select the various furniture options that would reflect the historical nature of the building, but also make the room a little more contemporary,” Fiene said. “You can look at almost any building on campus and there are plans to make it better. That’s kind of our bottom line.”