Leechpit ousting breaches respect: A letter to the President

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Dear Jill,

After ruminating on your words and discussing our conversation with my friends, I still must protest. I think the move to end Adam’s lease was reasoned counter-intuitively and is a breach of respect for a paying tenant. If this is for the students, then the students should agree with it. At least four hundred of us disagree with converting this valuable business into student space, and we are put off after being left out of the process. I understand that last year was the year of listening, but this issue was not revealed publicly, so input wasn’t possible. Now that it is a publicly revealed issue, hundreds of students have provided input and wish to have the lease renewed.

You mentioned the farm as an analogy to what the new student space would be like. I am excited that you want these types of spaces for us. However, I think this analogy deserves elaboration.  Converting the Leechpit to a student space is not a student campaign. Second, the farm did not displace anyone. Converting the Leechpit, a valuable artistic resource, into an artistic space, would be like displacing a rent-paying garden center, which provides seeds, starts, compost, books, and advice on gardening and farming to a community at large, so that a handful of people can farm that plot of land. Why would you sacrifice that resource, one that provides a wealth of resources and helps jumpstart many, for a few people? You would find a plot of land other than that garden center to sow your seeds if you had an interest in farming, because you would have an understanding of its value to other farmers, and would likely have a vested interest in the garden center’s cause. Artists value the Leechpit in the same way.

Kicking someone out of his or her place of business is no small deal. The Leechpit building has been a record store for 30 years. The owner has worked in the building since he was a kid, when it was called Toons.

I appreciate financial decisions. However, financial decisions are based on frugality and thrift. Sound financial decisions are ones that make the best use of the resources available. Given our situation, we’ve got better options. The administration just erected a multimillion-dollar building for visual and performing arts. This is exceedingly sufficient for musicians to practice in. Also, we have practice spaces in the basement of Mathias and in the Carriage House. Both of the main rooms in the Carriage House are hardly ever used. Battle of the Bands went smoothly this year, proving that even loud musical performance is viable. The Carriage House is a popular music venue with the students. Cossitt Hall and the outdoor amphitheatre are also excellent venues for performance. The Tiger Pit, historically a student space, is obsolete now that we have the Adam F. Press Fitness center. A better use of this space would be the sort of location you want the Leechpit building to be. It’s tucked away enough to be private, but popular enough and close enough to the pool tables, arts and crafts rooms, mail room, and the computer lab to make the basement of Worner into a continuous and cohesive gathering place. The Whitney Electric Company building would be more easily improved to meet code, to become a viable and safe art space, than the Leechpit. It would be a more conscious and considerate choice. Installing a new door is not a tremendously ambitious task, and while indoor fire sprinklers might cost a thousand bucks, that is a small cost relative to other renovations around campus. The Leechpit would be a poor use of space for musicians and artists alike. Its off-campus location would make it a hotbed for theft, and its proximity to local residences would inevitably produce noise complaints. If a student space is really needed, let us all map out options that don’t have negative consequences on our community.

Communities are fragile, and rapidly instituting a mission of development and prestige marginalizes individuals. I could list many examples. One example of such development is the school’s decision to knock down the Conoco building that was next to the CC Inn for a parking lot. The men and women who worked there were given little more than a week’s notice before they were evicted, losing their jobs.

The development of the Leechpit up the block from that Conoco has questionable legal ground. According to Adam Leech:

First, we signed a 2.5-year lease at the encouragement of former President Dick Celeste’s administration starting February 1, 2011. The lease had an option to renew yearly, at the colleges discretion, and we discussed the various scenarios in which we would no longer be welcome, none of which have occurred.

This unilateral lease termination represents a rift in the school. I hope we can avoid this trajectory. You have shown openness with town hall meetings, weekly student sessions, and even traveled extensively in hopes of locating and defining student interest and identity. This is much appreciated, and your active spirit has inspired me and many others. In that spirit I hope we can close this disconnect between the student body and the administration about these types of decisions.

I understand you probably weren’t aware of a lot of the things I just listed, and that is understandable. I hope students and faculty can begin to have more information readily and intentionally provided, especially about projects designed for us, so we can respond.


Christian Tappe