Davis Center: Revisted

The Davis Center is no new sight on the campus horizon. The Cynic sent home a progress report on student sentiments and what is going on behind the scenes as the finishing touches are being made. The Davis Center offers a number of services and shops to students, including: a convenient store, a bank, SGA offices, lounges, multiple dining areas and two ballrooms. So what do the students think? Freshman Haley Bruce feels the Davis Center “meets the basic needs for just about everybody. Whether you need a computer, a place to rest, food, it’s all there. I can’t think of anything else that could be added,” she said. However, not every student is singing praises for the Davis Center. Mae Baldwin summed up one popular view, “[The Davis Center] is somewhat a waste of money when there are so many other things the resources could go into.” Although the cost of the 186,000 square foot structure was indeed great, it wouldn’t have been built if it wasn’t what the student body wanted. The desire for a new student center was explicitly voiced by the Student Goverment Association. According to director of Capital Planning and Management, Robert Vaughan. Vaughan points out the SGA has been calling for its construction for a long time. “Student fees have been incrementally raised, and this was all endorsed by the SGA. They [the SGA] kept sending in resolutions saying ‘we want a student center,’ and the University delivered,” he said. Ray Lavigne, speaking for the contractor William. A Berry, said, “this is a hundred-year building. It’s 52% more efficient in energy and heating than an ordinary building of its size, and uses 41% less water. This is a building for the university and the students to be proud of, and will be cost effective in the long run.” There are also students who don’t like or dislike the Davis Center, but simply don’t know what to think. Senior Ashley Michelle Fowler came to the conclusion that, “it’s bittersweet. When I think of how the campus looked when I arrived as a freshman, and how it looks now, it’s completely different.” However, this change in appearance was intentional. “It’s a new, visible gateway into the University,” Vaughan said. “Before, Main Street was really looking into the back of the campus, which is no way to reflect your arrival at a major university, the flagship of the state.” The hope, according to Vaughan, is that this new entrance to UVM will give the sense of an open, welcoming campus. It is no coincidence that the Davis Center is set on the top of the hill, overlooking the school-it’s made to be an icon for the University. This, however, gives rise to another popular sentiment amongst students, that the Center is “too big,” “cold,” and “ugly.” “It’s just too big. Enough said,” one student stated before marching off. Whether you love the size of the building, or hate it, you have to respect the work and effort that went into building it Vaughan said. According to Vaughan, plans for the building emerged six years ago, and followed by a design competition the project started to take form. Once the blueprints were drawn, UVM went about hiring the right contractor for the job. The University hired William A. Berry & Son from Massachusetts because, “for such a massive project, you need to find a contractor that has done this kind of work before,” Vaughan said. While the contractor is from out of state, the six essential project managers are Vermont residents, three having graduated from the University of Vermont. Though it’s an out of state organization, the labor has been provided in state. The Cynic sat down with Ray Lavigne to discuss what exactly William A. Berry does. “The contractor is responsible for the planning, coordination and management of all the subcontractors. We oversee all the work that goes into construction,” he said. “A lot of time goes into the selection of a subcontractor,” Lavigne said, “because you have to make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. You have to weed out the subcontractors that can’t handle very specialized tasks.” According to William A. Berry, it’s a misconception that construction has fallen behind. “The maple in the atrium and ballroom was a change from original plans,” Lavigne said. “And on top of that, the University had events going on here before construction was finished, so we’ve been working around the occupants.” Vaughan was able to confirm that the University is very happy with the contractor, and explained that the delay in completion was “just as much our fault as anybody else’s. “The original August completion date was a rough target, we’ve been adding things, like maple paneling, and working on the punch list,” Vaughan said. The punch list is a list of minor adjustments and fixes that need to be made, like fixing improperly laid carpet, cracks in the paint, and mechanical failure in the building. The contractor is obligated to fix any problem that occurs within the first year, so the University wants it done immediately. The Cynic was presented with the punch list, a massive stack of paper several hundred pages long. With the number of items on it, it’s a surprise that work is close to completion. “We’ve whittled it down,” Lavigne said. “We’re getting to the bottom of the list.” When asked if he had any last thoughts for the interview, Vaughan shared that his “only hope is that the students love it. I hope the students are happy, the administration is happy, things are looking good.” When asked if there’s a big project coming up next, the answer was, “there’s always something next.” Right now that something happens to be a new plant science building. Whether you love it or hate it chances are the Davis Center has something to offer you. Though opinions differ from the positive to the negative in regards to the new Dudley H. Davis Center, it’s an impressive facility, a new icon for the University of Vermont, and a hub for student life and activity.