Upon return from Winter break, many students noticed there have been some large changes made to The College Store. While what students have noticed are mainly changes in layout and organization, there is a much larger change that is underway. Under the new administration, The College Store now under the direction of the Communications Office. Under this new direction and guidance of The Office of Communications, The College Store is engaged in a branding initiative.
All graphics and logos which were formerly used to decorate apparel, gifts, and supplies will be transitioned to a suite of graphics and logos that are approved, authorized, and provided by the Office of Communications. This means some currently used graphics and logos are currently being eliminated, while other currently used graphics and logos will be slightly modified. Lucille Smart, Bookstore Director, explained that the result will be a consistent, uniform look that will be representative of the official logos which have been established for use by Hobart and William Smith Colleges across all logos and graphics used in the store. This includes using primarily the official colors for all future merchandise. While this seems like a given, the Colleges as a whole have moved away from using purple and moved toward using navy blue instead.
This initiative will work to re-establish purple and orange as Hobart’s official colors. Anyone who has shopped at the store in the last two decades will tell you that the majority of Hobart apparel is in navy instead of purple. It’s not quite clear when this transition to navy was made, nor is the reason clear. The change seems to have started with the sports teams and made its way to all school apparel. While some speculate it was a result of Hobart athletes not wanting to wear purple uniforms, a more believable reason is that prior to the digital age of designing and ordering uniforms and apparel online, it was nearly impossible to get the items made in the correct shade of purple, so instead of wearing lavender jerseys they resorted to wearing navy blue. However, technology has changed and it is possible to make uniforms and apparel in the right shade of Hobart purple.
While many current students seem to not mind the navy, many alumni have expressed their dislike for the use of navy and their strong desire to return to purple. There is even a Facebook page called “Bring back Hobart Purple” where the mission to bring back purple is stated clearly, “This page is dedicated to everyone who believes that showing your true colors is NOT a fashion statement, it’s what school spirit, pride, confidence and identity is all about.” This perhaps explains why under the new administration, President Gregory J. Vincent ’83 has spearheaded this initiative to return to Hobart purple and orange. It seems he has recognized this change as a stray from identity; after all, Hobart colors never officially changed from purple and orange. This is one of the major tasks that the Communications office has taken on along with the staff at The College Store.
In addition to the apparel itself Communications is also working with The College Store to revise the layout of the store. While in the past, the mezzanine was home to all apparel, the first floor housed the general book collection and gifts, and the basement held the textbooks and school supplies, the new layout is less divided. In restructuring the “footprint” of the sales floors, the goal was to feature specific school colored merchandise and apparel on the Main Floor. In order to meet this goal, it was necessary to consolidate, downsize, and/or eliminate specific merchandise lines and departments. The intended result is for a more collegiate presence on the Main Floor and more open spaces throughout the store.
In the coming semesters, the community should expect to see a predominant use of school specific colors, while all logos will be consistent and representative of the official HWS logos. New merchandise items will be reviewed and added to the merchandise lines as appropriate. Furthermore, a new collection of signature, logoed, apparel is currently under consideration and expected to be introduced in the near future. However, customers can still expect apparel options in colors other than purple and orange and green and white. Smart explained that while the initial goal is to have a minimum of 80% of our apparel, and other merchandise, in school colors, the remaining 20% of the apparel, and other merchandise, may be in another color. Specifically, each non-school specific color will be assessed for its appropriateness per item or garment style. Hopefully this initiative will put an end to the widespread confusion among people outside the HWS community on what the colors and logos are.
In addition to the changes underway in the store, there have been rumors circulating about a possible move downtown for The College Store. Upon hearing these rumors, students have expressed concern with the potential loss of such an important resource and service on campus. Many students not only shop for HWS apparel, gifts, textbooks, and school supplies, but also convenience items such as toiletries, food, and over-the-counter medicine. Other concerns were those of accessibility to a downtown location, seeing as the current shuttle service offered doesn’t run during regular business hours, as well as a concern as to the inventory the downtown location would still carry in an effort not to compete with local businesses.
However, all of these concerns can be put to rest with the clarification Rob Flowers, Vice President for Campus Life, gave on the rumors, “The big important piece is, right now there’s no confirmed move downtown. There’s some little conversation and consideration, but we’re a long way from any kind of move to anywhere. We don’t know that’s going to happen.”
He went on to explain that the conversation about a possible move begin when the City of Geneva applied for and received a grant for $10 million from New York State for the Downtown Revitalization Initiative. “One of the key projects for that grant was nine-hundred-thousand of that ten million to go to the restoration of the Dove building,” Flowers explained. The Dove building, commonly known as ‘the Dove Block’ was constructed by William G. Dove in 1878. Arthur Dove, William’s son, was a famous artist in Geneva and worked in this building. The effort to restore the building is known as Save the Dove Block. On the project’s website, http://www.savethedoveblock.org, it is stated that, “The Dove Block is significant historically and to the fabric of downtown Geneva” and that “The group’s vision for the building’s reclamation has two key aspects. The plan is to allocate the first two floors to commercial enterprises. The third floor will be reserved for establishing a museum to honor Arthur Dove, one of America’s greatest abstract painters.”
Once the city received their grant, they asked The Colleges if they would ever consider a move to that building and if it was financially feasible. “Their purpose in doing so is to say that that can help with a secure anchor store in downtown Geneva to add to commerce and foot traffic in downtown Geneva,” Flowers added. Flowers made it clear that they are only in the very initial stages of considering whether this is a financially feasible move for the institution and if so would a move downtown be the right decision for the good of the Colleges. “So, I’m afraid that there’s a story out there that is being talked about that for those of us, for President Vincent, for Carolee White who is the VP of Finance, and I, [we] are at very initial stages of conversation, gathering any information right now so that we can start to formulate ‘what would a conversation on campus about a move look like, is it feasible for us in any possible way?’” Flowers said, adding, “This is a huge decision for the colleges, we’d need to talk with our students, with our faculty, with our staff, with our trustees, and we’re not even close to having these conversations because we don’t know if it’s even possible at this point. We are simply trying to be good neighbors to the city and somebody says ‘Look we got this grant, we’d like to offer you this money. Would you consider making this move?’ If it makes sense and it’s possible and it looks like it can be something that supports the needs of the institution and meets our responsibility as an institution, but also can support downtown, then we’ll consider it. If it looks like something that is beneficial only to Geneva and not to the campus in some way then no we don’t consider it […] At this point we’ve been asked and we are absolutely committed to considering it, but that’s as far as we’ve gotten at this point.”
Although there is no official plan, Flowers also addressed the solutions to the concerns students had brought up, “We are simply not there, we just don’t know yet. I think on a personal level as I’ve thought of this there are certain things that we would not want to be without. That whole convenience level is important to us, so I don’t know how—even if books could move downtown or merchandise could, I don’t know how possibly… that’s a Rob Flowers thought not an institutional thought.” Although these issues have not been discussed, the importance of The College Store as a vital resource and service for students has been recognized, Flowers added, “We all recognize that and when we get to¬—if we get to that point where we’re having that conversation, because that’s a crucial part, that’s a fundamental service we want to provide to the campus. It’s things like that that would have to be vetted out. There would have to be conversations with faculty about availability of textbooks and how we best deliver textbooks and talking about what’s the most efficient way for either, both financially and what’s the most efficient way for faculty to make sure that students have access to the books they need. What are the other elements of the bookstore that can help support the mission of the institution, and where are they best served? There certainly is value to having a store downtown, but we know there’s value in having a store on campus because we’ve had one for a long time, so it’s all about those kinds of balancing and decision points that we got to engage the community about this conversation.”
Finally Flowers engaged in a discussion about a potential future for the current space The College Store occupies, if and when the store would make its move. “The conversation has been two-fold, first, I think we need more student space on campus. We need more student social space, we have a dirge of student social space, and President Vincent has actually mentioned this very clearly, that would be a great use for this,” Flowers said. This need for more social space on campus has been a hot topic for discussion among students, especially as the student body has grown and simultaneously worked to create more inclusive and accessible spaces for the entire student body. Flowers also brought up the future plans to design and build a new science building, proposing the question, “Could it also have some swing space for, as we have to take buildings down, could there be offices?” Seeing as this would be only a temporary use for the space, Flowers finished by saying, “But I think long term, across the board, there’s a conversation that we need social space for students. That could be a wonderful opportunity, it’s got glass windows it’s in the middle of campus. I’ve actually thought about whether we could have a dining facility of some kind over on that side of campus, because we don’t have one. So, I think there’s, again it’s been in conversation, I don’t want to overstate it, it’s not at planning level by any stretch of the imagination, but as we’ve talked we’ve had those conversations. And in ways could it replicate the space that is the Barn, but without being on that side of campus, and having windows.”
Now that the rumors have been cleared up and the information is out there is potential for students to consider what these changes could look like. While initially many people felt the move would be a loss of a resource, they now have to consider the potential gain of a new and much needed student social space.
While it is easy for students, faculty, and staff to feel voiceless in large decisions like this, there are outlets on campus where concerns and suggestions can be addressed. The first is the Bookstore Committee, ideally made up of student representatives from each class year for both colleges and selected Bookstore staff. Current members include Mary Catherine Kowalsky ’18, Spencer Lerner ’19, Fallon Adair ’19, John Czekanski ’20, as well as the Clothing/Gift/Convenience Coordinator, Sharon Olschewske, Full-time Cashier, Crystal Weissend, and Bookstore Director, Lucille Smart. Cathy Williams, Vice President for Communications, has also mentioned the potential for a Branding Advisory Committee.
Other resources that students can utilize are William Smith Congress and Hobart Student Government. Finally, students are encouraged to speak with their student trustees who sit as part of the board of Trustees in order to represent the student body and their voices. Current trustees include Brianna Moore ’18 and Tyler G. Fuller ’18.