Ren­o­va­tions on Phillips Audi­torium are set to be com­pleted by Sep­tember 2019. Madeline Peltzer | Col­legian

Stu­dents returning to campus for the Fall 2018 semester found more than just a torn-up quad.

The Phillips Audi­torium is cur­rently out of com­mission as it undergoes a com­plete trans­for­mation. Ren­o­va­tions to the space will include more seating, better acoustics, and a mod­ernized aes­thetic. Con­struction is expected to con­clude by Sep­tember 2019. While the project has been in the works for years, fears of a toxic mineral sub­stance called asbestos, once used as insu­lation, being released into the air may have added an element of urgency. John Powell, the project’s car­penter foreman, didn’t deny the pos­si­bility.

“When you have an old building at an old college, nine times out of 10 there will be a portion of asbestos,” Powell said. “You can’t rule it out and you can’t rule it in.”  

The ren­o­vation project is already impacting campus life. For instance, this month’s Center for Con­structive Alter­na­tives lecture series will be held in the Searle Center, which seats 800 people com­pared to Phillips’ 350.

“Changes in venues always make things more com­pli­cated,” Matt Bell, Hillsdale’s Director of Pro­grams for External Affairs, said in an email. “But we have lots of good people who are working hard to make the CCA a success. While there are some chal­lenges, it is a good problem to have.”

Nev­er­theless, while the ren­o­vation may be advantage for the college, the auditorium’s closure creates com­pli­ca­tions for stu­dents.

Junior Karissa McCarthy is a member of the Inter­Varsity Prayer Min­istry Team and leads their 24-Hour Prayer event, which has been held in Phillips for the past seven years. With the ren­o­va­tions, she’s unsure where the event will take place this fall.

“We need a common space where stu­dents can spread out and that’s equipped for live music and instru­ments,” McCarthy said. “It also needs to be acces­sible at any time. Searle is big, but it’s too fancy for our pur­poses. Phillips was really good because security was willing to keep it open late at night for us.”   

The con­struction has also affected the Wiegand Com­puter Lab, which has been shut down while the ren­o­va­tions take place. The lab was a go-to study spot for some stu­dents, who are now having to find other homework loca­tions.

“I wrote all my papers there last year,” junior Sam Musser said. “It was kind of nice because it was away from the hubbub and dis­trac­tions of the library.”  

Sophomore Liana Guidone agreed.  

“It was a good change of pace and I really liked how bright it was with the windows,” she said.  “It was also super con­ve­nient, espe­cially on Sundays when I had ballroom dance in the Old Snack Bar. I could quickly tran­sition between studying and dance.”

In general, stu­dents said the project is a nec­essary and pos­itive devel­opment. Some expressed irri­tation at the lack of com­mu­ni­cation between the college admin­is­tration and the rest of campus.  

“I think it’s important for all stu­dents to know what is hap­pening to our college and why the college is doing this,” McCarthy said. “The college never sent out an email like they did when they started con­struction on the chapel. I’m glad they’re making the improve­ments, but it would’ve been nice to have some noti­fi­cation.”