Gresik: NU must renovate Fisk Hall, update facilities to better serve students

Dylan Gresik, Op-Ed Contributor

Northwestern considers the Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications a cornerstone of the University. From an extensive list of notable alumni to its long tradition of award-winning journalism, Medill’s name carries impressive weight. Yet, one’s first impression of the journalism program’s physical presence on the Evanston campus is anything but remarkable.

Fisk Hall has been the home to Medill since 1954. In 2002, the McCormick Tribune Center — now called the McCormick Foundation Center — opened, and with it, students gained access to updated classrooms, broadcast studios and the Forum auditorium. But, Fisk continues to fall short. Designed by Chicago architect Daniel Burnham, the historic building dates back to 1899 and is a lackluster shell of its original self. And it is in bad need of a facelift.

Renovating Fisk Hall and replacing Locy Hall are both long past due, and NU has a unique opportunity to create a cutting-edge journalism hub on Evanston’s campus. This decision would complement Medill’s impressive presence around the United States and the world. With sites in downtown Chicago, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Qatar, Medill would be well served to have a fully renovated and modern home base in Evanston.

NU Facilities Management’s 2004 “Southeast Campus Plan” lists Locy Hall as “to be demolished and replaced” and addresses plans to build a structure “that could occupy the site of the existing Locy Hall.” Yet, the 2009 “Campus Framework Plan” makes no mention of plans to renovate or demolish either Locy or Fisk. This was nearly a decade ago. No new plans I can find have mentioned either building since.

The University should mimic its successful renovation of Kresge Hall, reopened in Fall 2016, as a model for a Fisk revamp and Locy demolition. The fully remodeled Kresge now boasts updated classrooms, offices and building systems. Indeed, Fisk, too, would undoubtedly benefit from new mechanical, electrical, fire protection and communication renovations. Like Kresge, restorations to Fisk could elevate the classic building to be LEED-certified, lessening its impact on the environment and contributing to campus sustainability.

Imagine a bold, modern journalism hub on South Campus: a Fisk Hall returned to its former glory. A new Office of Student Life for Medill, collaboration spaces, modern classrooms and an updated Knight Lab space. Classrooms could better complement new teaching methods and house modern technology. With its proximity to many classes located in Kresge and University Hall — as well as to its sister building,the McCormick Foundation Center — a remodeled Fisk would be an attractive location for students both within and outside of Medill to spend time.

Certainly, much of Medill’s success in molding industry leaders since its inception in 1921 has been rooted in its talented students and exemplary professors. Yet, to stay on the cutting edge, these professors need modern, collaborative and updated spaces to complement their teaching. On Medill’s website, Dean Brad Hamm states, “Today, Medill blends history and values with innovation and change.” The time is right for NU to turn those words into action by allowing Fisk Hall the renovations it needs to transform it into a hub of innovation for the future.

Dylan Gresik is a Medill sophomore. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.