By Noah Sunshine || Senior Staff Writer
It never made sense to me why the college rented space out of College Square for a restaurant like Gibraltar; until they included it in the meal plan, I promised myself I would never go. Lancaster is a hotspot for fine dining, with many incredible places still within walking distance of campus, so popping a stuffy, upscale dinner joint next to the athletic center just made for one of the most confusing business decisions the college ever made. No wonder Gibraltar went out of business—it never belonged there.
Last month, the vacant shell of the restaurant was refitted for student use, meaning everything was left exactly as it was, more or less: same carpet, same sconces, same booths, same bar. The school tossed an icemaker into the bar and roped off the kitchen and a new event venue was born. It’s not so affectionately known as the Gibraltar Space, since no one has bothered to name it differently.
Students reserve the space like any other now, at zero cost. Over a dozen student-organized events are on the books between now and the rest of the year, no doubt as the most cost effective option by far compared to popular venues like Mulberry Arts and the Eden Resort hotels.
Across the conservative estimate of 12 events scheduled there between now and May, the college’s student organizations will save over $10,000 in jacked up venue costs designed to drag as much money out of the College as possible under the guise of “liability costs” for potential destroyed property.
Last week, all students received an email with “good news” from Dean Hazlett: the Gibraltar space has begun its mutation to the new location of Student Health Services through a contract with Lancaster General Health. LGH, the most robust health network in the state and most neighboring ones, brings an incredible amount of expertise and infrastructure to the campus health programs. Just as quickly as the Gibraltar Space appears, it begins its vanishing act.
I don’t blame the administration; this plan was drawn up long before the space was opened to students, and fits into the college’s published plan for future development and construction.
As a student venue, the Gibraltar Space was ours on borrowed time from the start. And yet, the college owning its own event space saves thousands upon thousands a year, in addition to relocating student events to an area of campus within walking distance and accessible by Public Safety.
This is a reductive assessment of costs and benefits, but F&M has made it abundantly clear to its students that its foremost concern is student safety, and a student space like this aids this goal tremendously. In the midst of all the construction plans rumored for the next 10 years, including the Shadek Stadium and the Northwest Gateway, perhaps this need will be addressed.
The Gibraltar Space itself was never the perfect solution to this matter of a student venue: its layout is poor, the acoustics are bad, its many entrances make security expensive, and it’s not very big.
We shouldn’t be upset to lose it to a potentially stunning and revolutionary health center that will dramatically improve campus health.
But as students, we should make it clear to the administration that we deserve a campus-owned student venue by proving that we can take care of it and insisting that it will affect the social culture of the campus for the better.