BY TIFFANY BENJAMIN
Upon returning to Harvard Law School for the new academic year, students were met with several changes around the campus. Renovations to the Harkness Commons, classrooms in Pound, Hemenway Gymnasium and the addition of an outdoor seating area have given the campus a new look and feel.
In Pound, the renovations include the installation of new desks that come with their own outlets, new seating, new lighting and new carpeting and wall coverings in the first floor classrooms. New furniture and wall coverings have also been placed in the hallways outside of the classrooms. Additionally, a new outdoor plaza has been created outside the Hark with tables and chairs, creating a central location for students traveling either to classrooms or the library.
Although not owned by the Law School, Hemenway was furnished with a new exercise and weight-training room that will replace one of the squash courts. Dean Kagan facilitated the renovations and credited the work and ambition of the Building Operations department with completing so many of the projects in only three months.
“I thought we needed the renovations,” said Kagan. “We needed more renovations than we were, in fact, able to do over the summer, but we did as much as we could given the limited amount of time we had… We didn’t have a lot of lead time so we picked the absolute most ambitious things we could do.”
Kagan and the Building Operations Department focused mainly on the areas of the campus that could be fixed within a short period of time in order to have some things completed by the start of the new academic year. Kagan’s decision to renovate Pound was based on the central importance of that building to both students and professors.
“When I became Dean, I got a building tour. I don’t think I realized until then just how utterly terrible the classrooms in Pound had become,” Kagan said.
Kagan continued, “We have to have a lot of classes in Pound to make our schedule work-to make those classrooms more user-friendly, to make them nicer looking, to put outlets at every desk, struck me as an investment well worth making.”
An outdoor plaza was created to increase the sense of campus community. “I am very conscious that this campus doesn’t really have a central space, a place where people can get together, can kind of meet, congregate, run into each other. It’s not going to be good year-round because we don’t have Stanford’s weather, but at least for these months and the spring, it can serve that function.” Kagan said she was thrilled by the physical response to the plaza, and through this she hopes the campus can “look a lot prettier somehow.”
Kagan credited the Law School Council with informing her of some possible renovations. LSC made several suggestions to the administration about changes to the campus, in particular Hemenway, and also drafted a report to the Dean that discussed student concerns at HLS.
Law School Council Student Advocate 2L Holly Hogan said, “The changes that we’ve seen coming back this year have been a topic of concern for the Law School Council for several years and were something we emphasized in the ‘State of the School’ report. We are really happy to see that Dean Kagan is on the same page as us and is listening to students about aesthetic improvements.”
“The administrators have been thrilled with the changes and students I’ve talked to have also said the same,” said Dean of Students Suzanne Richardson. “Personally, I think the renovations have made this a more campus-like environment and the changes give a sense of cohesiveness and community to the Law School. Thanks to everyone who worked so long and hard on these renovations.”
Generally, student response has been positive.
“It’s so beautiful outside the Hark now that it could take two hours to get through it. Everyone seems to agree that it’s beautiful,” said 2L Michael Fertik.
“I love the renovations in Pound. More space in the classrooms, better lighting, I really do like Pound. The new bathrooms are great,” said 2L Bettina Clark.
There are more renovations ahead for the Law School. Kagan is looking into revamping the student dormitories, considering potential renovations to the Harkness Commons, more renovations in the upper floors of Pound Hall, and potentially building new structures in the northwest corner of the campus.
“My basic feeling about this campus is that the student facilities are the worst part of it,” the Dean said. “Those are the facilities that really need improvement in addition to the rest of Pound.”
Kagan will give a speech on September 17 to discuss the strengths of HLS and her future plans for bettering the law school and its facilities. She also plans to schedule a town hall meeting and to continue to work with student organizations on these issues. She says she is more than willing to hear student input about this process and open to meeting with student groups and attending their functions.
“I like walking around campus and talking to people and seeing how they are feeling, trying to find out how they feel about the school. I think that part of the Dean’s job is just showing up and being a presence,” said Kagan. “I want to know what students are thinking and what they think I should do.”