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One Semester In, Lutnick Library Has Received Mixed Reviews

Lutnick Library. Photo by Maxwell Cox.

Sunday, October 26, marked an important moment in the history of Lutnick Library: its grand opening. Named for Howard Lutnick ’83, a billionaire businessman whose political allegiances have been the subject of scrutiny by some members of the Haverford community, and his wife Allison, the new library features smartboards, furniture from the California company SitOnIt’s Nano™ Lounge collection, and a café with both indoor and outdoor seating. Though the renovation has been heralded as a “new era for Haverford College Libraries” by the administration, many students have mixed feelings about the final result.

Among them is The Clerk’s senior photography editor Kate Silber ’20, a cities major who recently completed her thesis. Though she is positive about some aspects of the renovation—“The extended vaulted space is particularly gorgeous, the large windows let in more light and nice views, and the updated furniture, no matter how controversial, is more comfortable and fun”—she believes that the reduction in size has caused a gross deficit of study space.

“There aren’t nearly enough carrels for seniors, and the tables and study rooms are routinely filled,” Silber, who studies in the Philips Wing regularly, wrote in a November 13 email. “It can be hard to find good secluded spots away from the social main floor.” 

Silber’s beliefs are echoed by Abe Doroshow ’21, who mourned the loss of tiers three to five in a Facebook message. Others, however, have nothing but praise for the renovation. Among them is Silber’s fellow senior Maya Ahmed ‘20, who minced no words when asked for her thoughts. 

“I love the new library,” she said. “I feel like the air quality is better—Magill made me sneeze a lot because there was so much dust. I like the lighting because it’s easy on my eyes.” 

In a ceremony attended by both alumni and current students, President Wendy Raymond praised the new library as a “beautifully designed hub of collaborative space” and shared Lutnick’s moving life story, which has become the stuff of Haverford legend in the last 25 years. Born on Long Island to an artist and a history professor, Lutnick lost his mother to lymphoma during his senior year of high school. Barely a week after he arrived on campus to begin his freshman year of college, his father, who had been undergoing treatment for colon and lung cancers, died after a nurse accidentally infused his IV line with more than 100 times the correct dose of chemotherapy drugs. Moved by his plight, then-President Robert B. Stevens called him personally to offer him a full scholarship. “Howard,” Lutnick recalled him saying in a 2014 interview, “your four years here are free.” 

Since finding success on Wall Street, Lutnick has repaid the favor in spades, donating nearly $65 million to Haverford in the last quarter-century, including $25 million—the single largest gift in the College’s history—for the renovation of the library alone. The campus center, athletic center, fine arts center, and, now, the library all bear his name, that of his firm, Cantor Fitzgerald, or that of someone close to him.

Following President Raymond’s speech, Lutnick himself took to the podium to share his vision for the new library. His intentions, he said, were to “preserve what is core about the building” but “change it entirely.” These changes included the installation of an “inviting” ambiance and a “sense of light and openness,” the construction of a second entrance (the one facing Chase Hall), and the removal of a statue of a naked woman, known as “Hamadryad III,” which he called “creepy.” 

Lutnick’s seemingly critical view of Magill is not shared by the majority of current students interviewed for this article. As Silber wrote, “I didn’t think Magill deserved all the criticism it got, as it had a certain serious charm that felt suitable for really focusing on academic work.” Similarly, though Doroshow is happy that students once again have a “real library,” he finds Lutnick “more cold and sterile” than Magill. In casual conversation, many students besides Silber and Doroshow express regret that the iconic “boat,” a study area shaped like the prow of a ship, was demolished in the course of the renovation.

In his speech, Lutnick also shed more light on his personal investment in Haverford. The College, he said, “has played really a fundamental role in my life because of its people. Haverford is filled with people who have a shared sense of what it means to be a human being.” Later, he expanded on this statement, proclaiming that the college “mattered to me in my life…because it wasn’t interested in just educating [you], but in teaching you how to be a good human being.” 

Many online, however, seem to doubt that the College succeeded in that endeavor with regard to Lutnick himself. In May 2019, the Cantor Fitzgerald CEO held a highly publicized fundraiser for Donald Trump—who has fielded accusations of racism, homophobia, and misogyny many times over the course of his time in the public eye—at his luxurious triplex penthouse in midtown Manhattan. All in all, Bloomberg reports, between $5 and $5.5 million was raised for Trump’s reelection campaign that night. Some alumni accordingly opposed the construction of the new library on ideological grounds.

“So, how do folks feel about that library now that we know the president for whom Mr. Lutnick raised millions of dollars to help re-elect (and to ensure favorable tax and business legislation to help Lutnick make more $ than the billions he has) is a national security risk and has used his office for personal political gain and to help Russia get the sanctions for 2016 election interference lifted?” wrote James Pabarue ’72 in an October 1 post in the Facebook group “You know you went to Haverford if…”, provoking heated debate in the comments section. “No problem, right? He probably would have contributed to Andrew Johnson’s campaign despite Johnson’s efforts to dismantle Reconstruction if he had been alive. It’s just about money. Screw the real world impact of supporting bad, racist presidents, and/or presidents who conspire with foreign powers to interfere with our elections.”

Pabarue ended his post with a scathing indictment of what he sees as the College’s hypocrisy: “Good Haverford Quaker values.”

In an email, Parabue clarified his statements, writing that he takes issue not with Lutnick’s political beliefs—“Obviously, he is free to contribute to any political candidate, including President Trump”—but with the College’s decision to accept money from him.

“If a wealthy alum gives a significant gift to the College and supports Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam, should the College accept the gift and put the donor’s name on the building? Would white and Jewish members of the college community be fine with that?” Parabue, who claims he has expressed his concerns to the administration multiple times, analogized. “Or, if a wealthy donor who supports David Duke and contributes to white supremacist causes gives a $50 million donation to the College, should it be accepted and that donor’s name placed on the building?” (Pabarue notes that the administration was not required to name the library after Lutnick). 

Pabarue is not alone in questioning the ethics of the College’s decision to accept Lutnick’s gift as well as name the new library after him. Several other alums, both recent and not-so-recent, say that they share his concerns. Dan Stambor ’77, a retired primary care doctor, is among the not-so-recent cohort. Though he tried hard to see the situation from the Haverford administration’s point of view, at the end of the day, he could not reconcile the College’s core Quaker values of trust, concern, and respect with the current administration’s willingness to do business with a Trump supporter.

“I had believed that there was more to Haverford than quid pro quos,” Stambor said. “I had believed that Haverford and Haverfordians put principles, community, and our duties to society ahead of the quest for dollars. Either the social, political and ethical standards at Haverford have changed dramatically over the past 40 years or so, or… I drank the Kool-Aid and let myself be fooled into thinking that I had become part of a truly honest, ethical and socially conscious community.”

He added, “I hope I am wrong about this.” 

Stambor has an ally in Mason Emmert ’17, a music major and psychology minor who now works as a freelance musician. Based in North Philly, he nonetheless returns to campus regularly to visit relatives and watch Humtones acapella performances. “In general, I’m grateful for the amount of good that Lutnick has done for Haverford; his money has obviously made a huge difference in the lives of several generations of students,” said Emmert. “What gives me pause is memorializing via namesake a man whose values obviously (to me) oppose those of the College. I worry that Trump’s policies personally victimize a number of students, and that allowing the new library to be named after someone who supports the president will send a message to those most negatively affected by the current administration.”

But other alums, citing Haverford’s “embarrassing” endowment, see it as a necessary evil. 

“I don’t love that they named the library after Lutnick, but in terms of taking his money…the college needs it, to be frank,” said Kerri Tobin ‘97, an associate professor of education at Louisiana State University. “And as long as he’s giving away free money, Haverford is a deserving recipient. I think it would be unethical if Mr. Lutnick got or expected a say in college decisions as a result of this donation, but if they can be kept separate, I don’t see an inherent ethical issue.”

Tobin ended her statement on an encouraging note: “Speaking from experience, both at LSU and when I was on the faculty at a small liberal arts university in PA, administrative decisions and the names on buildings have very little impact on the magical process of co-creating knowledge that is, to me, the essence of college.”

The majority of the current students interviewed for this article seemed to likewise take Lutnick’s ties to Trump in stride. While it “kinda sucks,” Doroshow wrote, “I don’t know that there’s such a thing as ‘ethics’ in the world of for-profit colleges’ business dealings.”

Politics aside, student studies seem to have benefited hugely from the renovation and reopening of the library. Echoing Silber’s observation that the fact that “seats are usually filled really shows how much people enjoy using the library,” Raymond reported that three times as many students use Lutnick as used Magill.

One Comment

  1. David August 20, 2021

    I loved Magill and hate the new library. It obliterated the charm of Magill and the way it inspired academic and creative work. The redesign also eliminated a lot of the book collection and the portraits of past presidents. In the old Magill, I felt I was connected with the past in a way that made my schooling my meaningful. It was cozy, quirky, and even mysterious. The new library is antiseptic, corporate, and lacking in anything that points to a student’s place in the tradition of scholarship. It could have existed in Manhattan or Des Moines–there is nothing Haverfordian about it. I appreciate Howard’s great generosity, but his largesse should have been used in a different way. I also think the students, faculty, and alumni should have been consulted before agreeing to such a radical trashing of a beloved space.

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