Is Dion dying?

Student center still empty three years after Covid-19.

Cassie Lathrope/Arts & Culture Editor/

Jacob Gaudet ’26 does homework in between classes in a vacant student center. Photo courtesy of Liam Simard

The Dion Family Student Center, in the heart of St. Michael’s College campus, was once a popular place for students to engage in both academic and recreational activities.

   Now it is often deserted. 

   When the center opened in 2012, it was meant to provide an open opportunity for students of all grade levels to come together at any and all times of the day. 

   It proved very popular. Residence Director James Baker ‘17, says the first-floor seating area and the area now known as the Maker Space was filled with TVs, which were accessible to students. This brought lots of different groups into the space. 

   Assistant Director of Student Activities Emily Zimmer ‘19 says Dion was “very active” when she was a student. Dion was largely used by “freshmen, just because the dorms were so easily connected. But, upperclassmen would hang out in the radio station with friends and watch their radio shows.”

   The Dion building, standing at three floors tall offers Einstein Bagels (which converts into The Grill at night), a variety of different seats and study spaces, as well as a pool and ping pong table. 

   The second floor of the building provides students with a cardio gym with multiple pieces of different exercise equipment. The Roy Room on the third floor offers a meeting space for large groups and events. 

   The WWPV Radio Station on the second floor allows students to get involved by hosting their own radio station as well as enjoying different kinds of music. 

   Rachel Lesinski ‘22 said that in 2018, her freshman year, Dion was a “big place to meet up and meet people in other dorms because [they] lived throughout three different buildings.”

   Being a private school of a smaller size, a kind and welcoming community is one of St. Michael’s College largest selling points for potential students. 

   With the first years being on the opposite side of campus from most upperclassmen residence buildings, it has become more and more difficult for students to develop relationships.

   “Because of the housing model back then, if it was your sophomore year you were lucky to get Alumni,” said Baker. “Sophomores were usually up on North Campus.” 

   Baker also stated that, in the past, many non-seniors students preferred to either live in the quad or suite buildings on campus, putting them closer and with easier access to the student center. 

   But ever since the pandemic, students have stopped using Dion the way they used to. The student center is often vacant many hours of the day.  

   Jenna Farber, station manager of WWPV, spends quite a lot of time in Dion due to their commitments to the radio. 

   “I only ever really see people in here [Dion] when there’s an event going on rather than just for recreation,” Farber said. “Even if there are people, it’s usually only like two groups.”

   Despite social distancing restrictions being lifted over a year ago, it appears as though Dion has yet to be restored to what it was before the pandemic. 

   Only during midterm and finals weeks is it busy, when it’s difficult to find a place in the center to do your work. Every other week out of the year it’s a ghost town. 

   “People that are working in higher ed have noticed that it is been hard to engage students,” Zimmer said. “Especially the last few years, even when there weren’t quarantine restrictions. It was sort of hard to get [students] to engage and commit to things.”

   Zimmer said she works with programmers every week and is willing to suggest ideas for new events and activities in Dion. 

   Nothing has physically changed about the student center since the pandemic but, the community that uses it has changed. Students seem to have 

gotten used to hanging out in small groups, rather than going to Dion to get together.

   If Dion is to be popular again, students need to take advantage of the building. The student center relies on student usage to make it appealing. 

   Farber says the radio station plans to petition for different things being put in Dion like arcade machines or another pool table to draw students in.

   Whether adding new attractions to Dion will bring in buzz or if the student center has run its course is up for debate.