The Dorothy Drake Wing: A Forgotten Academic Space

By Rena Patel

Back when I was a wee prospie, with unadulterated dreams of college life, I remember being excited about entering, what my tour guide had called, “a collaborative academic working environment.” I remember going through various pictures of Toll after I’d been assigned to live there my first year and falling in love with the idea of doing homework with my friends in the Toll Browsing Room, envisioning a scene straight out of the Ravenclaw common room from Harry Potter.

Well that dream was thoroughly crushed after the first few weeks of classes, not because I didn’t have friends (I didn’t but that’s another story), but because I realized that there was no such thing as a collaborative academic working environment at Scripps. While we have many spaces on Scripps campus, they are not academic. Browsing rooms are spaces of quiet individual study and recreation rooms are usually not utilized for academic work.

To address these issues, Scripps administration opened up classrooms 104, 105, 201, and 203 in the Edwards Humanities Building in late March. However, opening up four classrooms for students to use as an academic space is not enough. In fact, Scripps used to have more academic space on campus in Denison Library.

The Denison Library we know of today was not what it once was. Before the Recession, Denison Library was a fully circulating library under the CUC. However, after the Recession, the Council of Presidents of the Claremont Colleges decided that all circulating collections would be moved to Honnold Mudd Library. Both Pomona College’s and Harvey Mudd College’s science libraries were closed, their material moved to Honnold Mudd, and the building repurposed for other use. Denison Library’s Dorothy Drake Wing, which was added to Denison in 1966, was temporarily closed off and many of the libraries circulating collections were also moved to Honnold Mudd. The original Denison wing of the library remained open under Scripps College as a special collections library and became the Denison we know of today. The Dorothy Drake wing, which was closed off in 2010, has not been reopened to the public since.

Before closing, the Dorothy Drake Wing had functioned as an extension of Denison Library and a place of collaborative learning for 40 years. Comprised of two floors, the lower level housed various collections and long tables where groups of students met to discuss class material and study together. The upper level contained more books, as well as personal carrels (small cubical-like desks) for seniors to place their study materials in for the year. A small conference room and other office space was also part of the Dorothy Drake Wing. Under both of the wings, two floors of archival space was used to store various other collections that were not on display.

In an interview with Dorran Boyle, Associate Librarian at Denison, described the academic environment in the Dorothy Drake Wing as a great meeting and study space. “It gave students more space to meet and work together. There were large tables available on both floors for students to work at.”

Susan Allen, Interim Librarian, who worked at Denison before the closing of the Drake Wing, also said that, “the Wing was very popular and was always filled with students who were studying together and using the collections.”

However, significant renovations must take place before Scripps can reopen the Dorothy Drake Wing.

“The building is not ADA compliant,” Boyle said. “It has one bathroom downstairs and one upstairs but you have to go up the stairs to get to it, but there’s no elevator. And even in the bathrooms, there isn’t room for a wheelchair to get in.”

In terms of Scripps’s current plans for the Dorothy Drake wing, Allen said that they’ve heard rumors about renovations but nothing conclusive and suggested asking administration.

Vice President for Business Affairs/Treasurer, Dean Calvo, addressed in an email through the Scripps Marketing and Communications Department, “There isn’t a current plan for the Dorothy Drake Wing that has been funded and approved.There was a planning committee that met during academic year 2015/16 that explored a potential concept plan for Drake; Drisko Studio architect firm was engaged to create conceptual schematics. One of the schemes was approved on a conceptual level by the Building and Grounds Committee in the spring of that year, but the project has gone no further, primarily due to lack of available funding/donor interest.

According to the approved plans, which were printed in More Scripps College Issue 8 from 2016, the Dorothy Drake Wing would have three floors: the two existing floors, and a floor underneath, which is currently being used as archival storage space. The underground floor would be extended out underneath Valencia Court.

However, only the Lower Level plans had student study space listed. The Ground Floor was given entirely to the LASPA Center for Leadership.

The magazine stated, “The west side of the wing will house [LASPA]. On the east side of the wing, an interactive arrival space accommodating up to 75 guests will be a gathering site for prospective students and families and will host LASPA events.”

The Upper Level will house faculty offices and a humanities lounge.

The Voice also reached out to the Dean of Faculty Amy Marcus-Newhall and President Lara Tiedans through Marketing and Communications for any information about potential plans for the wing and any student involvement, but received no response.

Within the “Our Signature Campus” giving campaign, renovations of the Dorothy Drake Wing are second in priority under residential housing. Now that New Hall construction is complete, administration may be trying to start moving forward with Denison. However, it seems that the Dorothy Drake Wing will remain closed indefinitely, or at least until Scripps finds enough funding to move on with renovations. According to the Scripps College website, the cost of completing the Dorothy Drake Wing project would be $8 million.

Enough time has passed since the closing of the Dorothy Drake Wing that current students have no memory of it. For us, it was never an academic space to begin with. However, with the need for more academic student spaces on campus, it is necessary to consider the Drake Wing to be used for its original purpose as a collaborative student study environment as opposed to more administrative spaces.

Today’s academic environment has become much more collaborative than in previous years. Students excel when working together, something that Scripps has taken pride of. But without adequate academic space to do so, Scripps students who wish to work in a collaborative space on campus must either venture off-campus for it or resign themselves to independent studying in quiet browsing rooms or elsewhere on campus. While the Dorothy Drake Wing may not reopen anytime soon, it is and should be a strong contender to be utilized first and foremost as an academic space before being considered for any other purpose.  

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