Starting this semester, the McCaffrey Room, located on the first floor of Keefe Campus Center, is no longer available for use by students, as it will soon transition to being used by the Office of Student Affairs (OSA) to provide a number of practical and informational services.
For many years, the McCaffrey Room has been a popular space for student organizations to hold meetings and other events. After the change, the room will instead house a number of departments and staff from OSA, including OSA Operations and the Community Safety Team. The booth next to the McCaffrey Room that’s currently occupied by the campus center managers will also be taken over by OSA, and turned into an informational and service window. The transition will happen after the room is done serving, as it has in the past few years, as an extra storage space for the post office to hold the influx of packages that come at the start of the year.
In addition to accommodating OSA’s growing staff, the Student Affairs department hopes to achieve two important goals in making these changes, said Dean of Students and Chief Student Affairs Officer Liz Agosto. The first is to move all non-urgent or non-emergency services away from the Amherst College Police Department (ACPD), in response to the recommendation of the Campus Safety Advisory Committee that these services be separated from the other functions ACPD performs.
Toward this end, the lost and found and AAS van registration services currently provided in the police building will both be moved to the McCaffrey Room.
The second goal is to create a centralized hub for information, or a one-stop shop for students to get any and all questions related to campus life answered. This may include anything from questions about who to contact for academic support to housing inquiries to questions about campus events. OSA aims to have all this information be immediately available to students in one place, so that they don’t have to spend time searching online or going to different offices.
Senior Associate Dean of Students Dean Gendron said he hopes the window can be open from 8 a.m. until midnight each day, or possibly even later.
Despite the benefits OSA expects repurposing the McCaffrey Room to have, losing the room has already created difficulties for some clubs. The Amherst Political Union (APU) is among the many clubs that previously held weekly meetings in the room. Melanie Schwimmer ’23, the club’s president, said she believes they have been meeting in the McCaffrey Room for years.
Indeed, the club’s page on The Hub states, “The first facet of the APU is our weekly meetings held weekly in the McCaffrey Room located within the Keefe Campus Center.”
For Schwimmer, finding a new room has been somewhat challenging. APU has tried out the Octagon and Chapin so far, but neither has been ideal. “It’s definitely been difficult to find the atmosphere that we want, which is one that allows for intellectual debate and conversation in a comfortable setting,” she said.
Gendron told The Student that he has “no worries about space,” noting that the department is planning on expanding reservations of common spaces in residence halls and making them more available to student groups.
This will involve adapting the Student Host Event Policy (SHEP) for clubs and student organizations — since common rooms have previously mostly been reserved for party events or those involving alcohol, Gendron said he hopes to “bifurcate” the common room reservation process, making it easier for student groups holding regular meetings to access these rooms.
Additionally, the department plans on completing an inventory of all reservable space on campus, so that students can be made aware of exactly what spaces are available to them. “There are beautiful spaces that people don’t know about,” Gendron said. He added that once students can book them, these spaces will become viable for all student groups to use.
Agosto said that while the administration is reluctant to impinge on student space, they believe it is a necessary consequence of the expansion of OSA.
While new spaces may soon become available, some club leaders feel that the McCaffrey Room will not be easily replaceable. “It’s a nice room,” said Ross Kilpatrick ’24E, who has been president of the Board Games Club since fall 2020. “It’s got nice couches and a nice ambiance.”
The club met every Saturday in the McCaffrey Room prior to the pandemic, and will not be able to return there this year. Instead, the club has been meeting in a classroom in the Science Center. For Kilpatrick, it just isn’t the same. “It’s fine,” he said. “But it’s no McCaffrey Room.”