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C-Haus renovations under way, set for reopening after spring break

On-campus bar and music venue Coughy Haus, opened in 1972, has acted as a statement of Beloit’s gritty and unique culture for nearly 50 years. This year, along with the many changes accompanying the announcement of the college’s $7 million deficit, Coughy Haus, commonly referred to as C-Haus, has been closed and under renovation.

While at the beginning of the year reasoning for the closing of C-Haus was unclear, it was made known to students that administration would be using the untimely resignation of C-Haus manager, Darryl “Smiddy” Smith’17, as an opportunity to renovate the space, making C-Haus more accessible.

During winter break, Cecil Youngblood, Associate Dean for Inclusive Living and Learning, described the future renovations in an email sent to a group of students who were concerned about the project.

The bathroom in the side room is being made ADA compliant and accessible,” Youngblood said in the email. “The doorways both into the TV room and the bathroom door itself have been widened and re-framed; the tub will be removed and fixtures re-positioned to make more space. It will be painted and new accessible fixtures installed. New flooring is being installed throughout the first floor. Painting will occur in designated spots with some areas left as they are with murals and drawings per the committee.”

Youngblood described the timeline of the renovation: “The upstairs C-Haus renovations are just about fully complete…The goal is to make that space a viable, used and a great 3rd space for students again.”  

Several students shared their thoughts on the renovations. Alexis Kosik’19 expressed her approval of the renovation via email. “The renovation of C-Haus has sparked a broader conversation of accessibility on campus,” she said, “and I hope it has opened the eyes of many of the able-bodied people on this campus who may have (unintentionally) overlooked accessibility in the past when planning events.”

When asked, Ben Katz‘21 replied by email saying, “I definitely think that the accessibility concerns need to be addressed, and I really hope that some meaningful changes are made in that department.”

Accessibility is obviously the most important aspect of the C-Haus renovation, especially if they reopen the space because if not everyone can use it then it should not be open,” Sarah Grissom’20 said via email. “With that being said, the student body has been largely left in the dark about aesthetic changes to the interior walls, such as covering portions of the murals.”

Although C-Haus is not yet reopened, just looking in the windows students can see the repainting of the interior walls in a tan hue with nothing but the remains of selected murals. Along with this paint job came the whitewashing of the upstairs bathrooms. Commenting on this via email, Patrick Azar‘20 stated, “It seems strange to me that anybody would want to erase the personality of such a unique building like C-Haus.”

Agreeing with this, Katz stated that the parts of the renovation with which he disagreed. “The aspects of the renovation that I feel are fundamentally changing the character of the space…I understand that some changes to the physical space will inevitably have to be made, but were all of those changes really necessary? It kind of seems to me like whoever’s in charge of this project wants to rebrand C-Haus rather than preserve what students loved about the space.”

Youngblood described the process of choosing the renovations saying, “All decisions around the renovations to C-Haus were made and will continue to be made by, in response to and with the consultation and approval of the BSC Presidents, BSC, past and current student committees.”

Not only are students concerned about the changing aesthetic of C-Haus, but of the Beloit culture shift they say it has brought about. “I’m sure that there is a hole in Beloit without C-Haus. I think everyone’s been getting on just fine in its absence, but having that kind of venue to hang out/play live music/hold events in is pretty fundamental to the college experience; maybe the Powerhouse will satisfy this need for people, but I doubt it,” stated exchange student Ellie Rogers in an email. Grissom agreed adding, “I think the closing of C-Haus has further limited student’s ability to gather in large groups, which has led to major decline in social life on-campus. I think this has driven a lot of people to leave campus on the weekends and is a contributing factor to Beloit’s low retention rate because people do not feel like they are part of a community here.”

Youngblood does not believe the closing and renovation of C-Haus has impacted campus culture. “Obviously one of the strongest mainstays of Beloit campus culture is student engagement and a tenacious concern for our campus,” he said. “That has not changed.  People that frequented C-Haus still find ways to socialize on their own terms. That has not changed. As much as I truly understand what C-Haus means to this campus and have understood since my arrival 20 plus years ago, one thing I know is that the ‘culture’ of Beloit is not contained in a building or space. It is in the individuals (as in any culture) that make that culture what it is. So no, it has not changed the culture.

“The only way there can be shift is if the students themselves change who they are,” Youngblood continued. “I do not see nor anticipate that will ever happen. And I am thankful that it won’t.”

Surrounding transparency between administration and students throughout this process, students felt primarily in the dark about the renovation. Azar, feeling ill-informed, stated, “I know I’m not alone in having doubts about how soon renovations will get completed, especially considering we were initially told that C-Haus would reopen sometime last semester.”

An email was sent out to all the factions who claim responsibility for the C-Haus. That was to begin to create some communication with all of the changes,” Youngblood said. “Hopefully, out of that there will be a group formed that will be responsible for the operation and therefore the communication regarding ongoing work, plans and thoughts about C-Haus. That way there will be  a direct link to students from students and a clear line of communication.”

Grissom shared her view on the transparency between administration and students stating: “I think this renovation should be most important to students because it signals the college’s commitment to transparency and accessibility of information for the campus community, which has been close to none during this process.”

Azar explained his hopes for C-Haus’ future, stating, “In the short term I’d hope we can open right after Spring Break, so that this campus can get slightly less boring and us employees can have night jobs again.” Former C-Haus employees don’t know the status of their jobs, Azar said. He also stated that in the long term he hopes to see C-Haus “Go back to what it was before it closed down.”  Most of all Azar emphasizes that, “The greatest issues with C-Haus pre-closing were related to a lack of accessibility and variety of performing acts.”

Students can expect to see the space reopen after break, and can begin to form their own opinions. In terms of involvement, students can keep their eyes peeled for opportunities as Kerry Satterwhite, head of grounds, said that student input is wanted in the setup of the newly renovated space.

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