from the Dec. 7. 1995 Daily Pennsylvanian:

Non-residential 'Hub' pilot
will serve student writers

By Randi Feigenbaum
The Daily Pennsylvanian

The administration has consistently promoted combining academics and residence halls through its collegiate planning effort.

But neither students nor faculty will live in the Writers House pilot program, intended to offer students literary and publishing opportunities.

But those on the pilot's planning committee are hoping that the Writers House will feel like a home to those affiliated with it, especially since its planned location is the former residence of the University chaplain, at 3805 Locust Walk.

One person may live in the house, serving as an advisor and coordinator of the project.

The Writers House -- formerly known as the Hub -- will include a "writers' cafe" where those affiliated with the house can socialize or hold poetry readings and other events. The house will also contain meeting and classroom space, along with rooms specifically designated for desktop publishing and other computer work.

According to English Undergraduate Chairperson Al Filreis, who is directing the pilot program, all campus publications have been invited to participate in the Writers House.

Filreis stressed that the program will incorporate all types of writing, including fiction and non-fiction.

University publication editors and writers would be able to hold meetings, collect submissions and even edit and lay out their magazines or newspapers within the confines of the House.

Those who are not involved with specific writing-related University activities on campus can still be affiliated with the house, by attending poetry readings and participating in the program's other activities.

College senior Elliott Witney said the activities will provide a way of "empowering" writers on campus, by making them feel they are part of a well-defined community.

The planning committee hopes to attract outside writers and other lecturers to complement its internal programming.

Data Communications and Computing Senior Network Specialist David Deifer, a member of the Writers House planning committee, said local writers will play an integral role in the program.

"It gives students an opportunity to experience more of the literary culture of Philadelphia," said Deifer, who is managing the technological aspects of the program. "There would definitely be something added in the educational experience."

In addition, the Writers House will contain one classroom that could be used for writing-related seminars.

College senior Shawn Walker, who has coordinated many of the program's planning efforts, said she hopes to see "people who are interested in writing at any level or degree hanging out [at the house] to share their common interests and socialize."

Currently, the Philomathean Society has some programming similar to proposed Writers House activities.

Witney, the group's moderator, said he had some "concern that Philo's job is being taken over largely."

"A lot of what Philo does could easily be done at this house," Witney said. "I don't necessarily think this is a problem. Whether both groups are working against or with each other, the community's going to benefit."

Filreis said Philo and the Writers House will not overlap or conflict with one another. He noted that the two could actually work together in creating a complete schedule of writing events on campus.

"They have programs and we are enabling programs to happen," he explained.

Filreis said he also hopes to involve the other pilot programs -- which are focused on research, science and technology and community service -- with the work of the Writers House. Joining with these programs would allow the house to live up to its former name -- the Hub.

The Writers House would work with the Civic College House in reaching out to West Philadelphia children. And its use of technology looks toward the Science and Technology Wing for inspiration.

The former chaplain's residence will need to be renovated to serve effectively as the Writers House.

"The most frustrating thing has been that there already is a space," Witney said. "The fact that we have the house is good and now we're trying to figure out what to do with it. It would work better if we could figure out what we want to do and then find a space that works."

Facilities Management is planning to make major improvements to the house's electrical wiring and capacity, including the installation of an Ethernet network for computers. Many of the rooms and pieces of furniture also need basic repairs and painti ng, Physical Plant Director Jim Wargo said.

Computers and furniture must be purchased for the house as well.

The planning committee is also debating knocking down two walls to create a bigger space for the writers' cafe.

The cost of these renovations has yet to be determined, Filreis said.

Although the Writers House is currently only a pilot project without any definitive permanent future, Filreis said Facilities Management plans to go ahead with these renovations.


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Last modified: Monday, 24-Jun-1996 22:06:53 EDT