Having renovated the interior of Pound Hall and spruced up the outside area of Harkness Commons, Dean Kagan is showing she is not one to rest on her laurels. In setting a goal for renovating the Hark interior by next year, Kagan is demonstrating that her commitment to improving the look and feel of the school is an ongoing one that continues with the Hark and will hopefully continue in the future.
The Hark renovation is long overdue. For being such a large school (for a law school at least), HLS has no true gathering place, no center to draw about its myriad students and scholars into discussion and community. The Hark is not a place one goes to – it is a place one goes through, on the way to class, to the dorms, to anywhere more inviting. Certainly, it has elements that encourage socializing and community building – the pool table, though woefully becoming worn out, is a place for fun to be had, and the piano certainly can add a touch of class and warmth when students take hand to key and fill the Hark with music. Still, the Hark lacks a sense of being a center point of the campus, something that is evident by how very few student groups hold meetings within the walls of their designated student center.
The time frame for change, though short, is a positive sign as well. It is clear that Dean Kagan hopes to transform the school into a more hospitable place, but she is to be applauded for being realistic about the pace of change. The Hark could be revamped completely, with broad, sweeping renovations, but such a process would drag on for years and leave students with no student center. Instead, as with the changes Kagan has already made, the Dean acknowledges that such ideas have little relevance to those of us who are current members of the HLS community. Moderate, incremental changes lead to an optimal solution, for they encourage thinking and debate as to what things should be changed in the short term and the long term, while still resulting in modifications that can be enjoyed by those who are already here.
Finally, Kagan’s willingness, and, indeed, eagerness to encourage student input is to be commended. Ultimately, though many walk through the halls of the Hark, it is intended to be a student center and so it is appropriate that students be the ones recommending changes. This emphasis on students will ensure that the changes are functional to the needs of the student body and ensure that students feel connected to the decision making here at HLS.