The VCU administration is no longer allowing student dance organizations to use the Franklin Street Gym as a practice space, said George Pottanat, SGA chairman of information and technology for the Monroe Park Campus.
The Student Government Association said the VCU administration does not allow access to the rooms and spaces of the Franklin Street Gym to certain student organizations because previous use of the spaces created security problems.
“People have been bringing people from outside, it’s just been … a safety issue,” Pottanat said. “There’s no people actually watching at night time so they said they wanted to close it … and there is a possibility that it might be – I mean it’s not set in stone yet – but there is a plan to take it down and put a new building there.”
Brian Ohlinger, associate vice president of VCU facilities management, said there are tentative plans to replace the Franklin Street Gym with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Research Building and a new facility for the College of Humanities and Sciences.
“The project is four to eight years away, depending on when state funding becomes available … so nothing is happening in the immediate future,” Ohlinger said. “The programs and organizations that currently use the Franklin Street Gym will be relocated to other facilities on the campus.”
Ohlinger also said an upcoming addition to the Student Commons could serve as a replacement space for the Franklin Street Gym.
“Student groups currently meet throughout the university in many different buildings,” Ohlinger said. “There is also an addition to the Student Commons planned that, depending on the timing, could provide the replacement space. If this space is not completed, arrangements would be made to move to other buildings.”
Johnathon Han, president of the student dance organization Breakology, said the administration has not recommended a replacement space after being denied access to the Franklin Street Gym.
“I have not been told of any other available spaces at the moment,” Han said. “I have heard that the underground (Student Commons) was supposed to be renovated into a dance studio but it will take time.”
Reuban Rodriguez, dean of student affairs, said the expected additional dance space for the Student Commons may take longer than two years.
“It needs to be planned, surveyed and then actually constructed … expect it to take at least two years,” Rodriguez said. “We are still determining if a dance space in the Student Commons should take priority over other types of spaces that other students and student organizations might want or need in the Commons.”
Vanessa Diaz, president of the student dance organization Muevelo, said she has started an online petition on Change.org to increase the amount of space available to student dance organizations. The petition currently has 217 online signatures.
“In order for dance organizations and other organizations to become bigger and make a name for themselves elsewhere than within the university, there needs to be more resources available and more trust given to them,” Diaz said in her petition. “If the (Administration’s) concerns are involved with property damage, the organization can be held responsible specifically.
Jeffrey Calero, a VCU alumnus and the co-founder two student dance organizations, Blank Canvas and the Poppers signed the petition.
Calero said he is disappointed with the administration’s decision to deny student dance organizations access to the practice spaces in the Franklin Street Gym.
“It is ridiculous how inconvenient VCU has made space limited to student organizations,” Calero said. “Seeing the group (the Poppers) grow from originally nine to over fifty members that show up weekly is a true testament to the demand of such organizations,” Calero said.
“These organizations have given more back to VCU and all that VCU has done in return was punish everyone for a single group’s actions by stripping everyone of space privileges.”