It’s been a long time since MSU gave the arts and humanities the credit it deserves. Twenty years to be exact.
But, finally, the College of Arts and Letters will find a home in Snyder-Phillips Hall in 2007. “I am happy to see the interest in a residential college for the arts at MSU, however long it took us to generate it,” said Susan Madigan from the department of art and art history. Madigan is on the first planning committee for the College of Arts and Letters.[future]
Justin Morrill College was once dedicated to interdisciplinary arts and humanities studies and was located in Snyder-Phillips Hall. The arts college, along with Lyman Briggs and James Madison colleges, were founded in 1965 after a 75 percent increase in enrollment on campus. Then in 1979, MSU’s Board of Trustees voted to continue Briggs and Madison colleges and close Justin Morrill due to decreased enrollment and a severe fiscal crisis in 1981. They planned to close all the colleges, but a huge outcry from on and off-campus residents, as well as intervention by state leaders, prevented the closure of Briggs and Madison. Since then, MSU has been without a residential college for the arts.
Marcia Aldrich, an English professor said, “it makes sense to have areas of study in arts and letters to balance out the James Madison and Lyman Briggs colleges.” The College of Arts and Letters includes departments and schools of: art and art history; English; french, classics and Italian; history; linguistics and Germanic, Slavic, Asian & African languages; music; philosophy; religious Studies; Spanish & Portuguese; theatre and writing, rhetoric & American cultures.
The planning committee is looking for input from the campus community. “Many voices need to be heard: students, faculty, governance, administration,” Madigan said. “And that is how it should be because this measure would have a tremendous impact on the lives of many students. I personally believe that if the university chooses to go in this direction, if we make this commitment, then the funding we receive will be adequate for its needs.”
President Lou Anna Simon decided she wanted the addition of the arts and letters college to be her project during the campaign expansion of campus when she was provost. The location of the college was decided after Snyder-Phillips residence halls were next in line for renovation, and they are right next to all the buildings that hold Arts and Letters classes. “This is a fabulous project,” Madigan said. “It will be close to the arts corridor – the museum, music, art departments. This will also give students a great interdisciplinary experience.”
According to the Report of the Summer Task Force 2005 for the New Residential College/School from the Dean of the Department of Art and Art History, “The goal of the new residential college is to attract students who otherwise would not come to MSU. They are uncertain that a small liberal arts college will provide them with the faculty expertise and research opportunities of a large university, but they are wary of becoming lost at MSU. In this respect, the new residential college seeks to emulate James Madison College and Lyman Briggs School by bringing students who are well-prepared in and motivated to study the humanities in a rigorous way at a small college within a large research university.”
[p1] The new college will be built as part of the renovation plan of the Snyder-Phillips residences. Bruce Haskell, dining services coordinator, said several years ago the Department of Housing and Food Services conducted a facilities assessment that prioritized residence halls that needed renovation. Mason and then Shaw were the first two that have already been finished, and Snyder-Phillips is next. Construction will start in May 2006 and funding for the residence halls will be about $18 million, plus $16.5 million for the college. The doors will open Fall 2007 for housing and food services.
Haskell said they have decided to demolish the entire center building between Snyder-Phillips and rebuild it so they don’t have to rebuild around existing pillars. The exterior will look similar to the other residence halls in the area, like Mason and Abbot. He also said there will be a bit more space for residents, but not much.
About 1,350 residents will be the immediate beneficiaries of the renovation, Haskell said, but housing and food services also hopes it will be a draw for off-campus students on Bogue Street because of the coffee café. Also, the college will be a destination for students with classes there, as well as those who just want to experience the new marketplace.
Haskell said they have been planning this project for two to three years now, and Snyder-Phillips has taken a little longer to get to because of the magnitude of the renovation. “This is the biggest renovation I’ve seen in the 30 years of working here,” he said.
The renovations for the building include new furniture, sprinklers and paint. They will also reconstruct the[p2] community bathrooms as they were done in Shaw, with locker rooms and benches. The two food services in Snyder-Phillips will be knocked out and there will be a new marketplace in the middle. Classrooms, lecture halls and faculty offices will be built on two additional floors above this middle marketplace, and a theater in the basement for the College of Arts and Letters. The halls will be decorated with art and other pieces that contribute to the Arts and Letters College.
“The marketplace will compliment the arts corridor ambiance by incorporating vivid colors, photos, memorabilia, sculptures and banners or flags adorning the ceiling,” Haskell said. “Another neat thing is that you will be able to look down on the marketplace from the above two levels, and marketplace will cater to the above offices.”.
Plans are still in the process, but Haskell said the center building will be called the Red Cedar Marketplace and will be open from 7 a.m. – 12 a.m. There will be six different stations spread out over three wings so students will be able to look at a menu in the entrance and walk over to a station, instead of standing in lines that crowd the cafeteria.
The six different stations are: Chef’s Choice, featuring exhibition cooking with carved meats and sides; World Cuisine, featuring authentic ethnic menu items prepared to individual tastes; Soup and Salad, featuring bread bowls, entrée salads with made-to-order toppings like chicken; Dessert Emporium, featuring MSU Dairy Store ice cream and toppings; Pizza and Sub Shop, featuring fresh pizza and an assortment of breads made on site; North Campus Grill, featuring hamburgers and sandwiches that can be individualized with both hot and cold toppings.
There will also be The Barista Café Servery, which will include specialty drinks such as coffee blends, hot and cold teas and hot chocolates, along with baked goods and grab-and-go items such as salads and sandwiches. This will not be part of a meal plan, but will accept Sparty Cash.
Many people on campus have been excited about the upcoming plans for the renovation, while some students are asking why this it has taken so long. “Absolutely this is a positive thing, especially after all the positive feedback we received after renovating Shaw and Mason. It’s even more exciting because of the new food service,” said Brown.
Students that would be excited about the new college won’t be able to reap all of the benefits. Language arts junior Maureen Murphy said, “I think this is a really cool thing and I will be excited to see it once it’s done, but I don’t think it will be done by the time I graduate and I am sad I will miss out on the new classrooms for my major.”
Journalism junior Justin Kroll said, “This is a good project, but too little too late because I will already be gone by the time it’s finished.”

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