Athens campus looks to shrink it’s physical space


The Athens campus will be moving to a smaller building in the near future // PHOTO// PIEDMONT COLLEGE

Cameron Graham, News Editor

Piedmont College’s Athens campus is getting smaller, literally

“Our Athens campus is overbuilt right now,” said Daniel Silber, Senior Vice President and Provost of Academic Affairs at Piedmont College. “We started it many years ago with great hopes and ambitions for it, but it never became as large a campus as we initially hoped.”

The Athens campus is marketed as a degree-completion campus, offering degrees to students who have completed at least 30 hours of undergraduate credit. According to the Piedmont website, Athens students can earn degrees in nine areas, including business administration, nursing, education and criminal justice, as well as graduate degrees in business and education.

Since launching in 1996, the Athens campus has mainly operated at 595 Prince Ave. since 2006. The former home to Prince Avenue Baptist Church and school, Silber said the property is much larger than is needed for the college.

“We looked at downsizing the campus, which we are currently doing,” said Silber. “We currently have a 75,000 square foot facility there, and we are moving to a facility that is under 30,000 square feet.” 

After reaching a lease-purchase agreement over the summer to sell the campus to the Clarke County School District, Piedmont announced it would be moving its Athens operations to a new building six blocks down the road at 1282 Prince Ave. The move is expected to happen in spring 2021.

“This move opens an exciting new chapter for Piedmont,” said Piedmont College President James F. Mellichamp in a July 2 press release announcing the move. “Next year, we will have a new name and a modern, new Athens home. The upgrade reflects our transformational growth and emergence as a regional liberal arts university. Piedmont opened an Athens campus 25 years ago. And this relocation illustrates our enduring commitment to the Athens-Clarke County community.”

With the move to a significantly smaller building imminent, Piedmont laid off six support staff, including two maintenance workers, two library staff members, a financial aid worker and a receptionist. Notably, the Athens campus’ Lane Library that was renovated and opened in fall 2017, has permanently closed.

The official announcement was made to students in an email sent Sept. 24. “Many competing factors were weighed and balanced as part of the decision to relocate the Athens campus of Piedmont College,” wrote the Piedmont College Library in a letter addressed to the Athens Campus Community. “These deliberations resulted in the decision to close the Mary C. Lane Library. We regret to announce that the last day for the Lane Library and its staff will be Saturday, Sept. 26.”

The loss of the library was particularly impactful to Athens faculty and students. 

“I’m deeply disappointed over the closing of our Athens library and in particular, the loss of our Athens library staff,” said Beth Lovern, associate professor of anthropology. “The librarians there played a critical role in helping us meet our academic goals.”

Marquavious Stevens, a senior business administration major, said the library was one of the few spots on campus for class meetings and to study.

“I used the library to study with other classmates before class, it was the perfect meeting spot,” he said. “Not only was it the perfect meeting spot but it had a unique catalog to choose from.”

Lovern was one of the professors who incorporated library use into her class. 

“As a class we would sometimes visit and work on our anthropology research projects with the assistance of the librarians,” she said, adding that the library was used by her students outside of class as well. “Students benefited from having in-person help on the days when I wasn’t teaching at the Athens campus.”

Bob Glass, Dean of Libraries at Piedmont College, said that despite the closing of the library, students can still access library resources.

“We regard all users as remote users,” said Glass. “While there won’t be a physical library on the Athens campus we are making ourselves available chat, email and zoom.”

Lovern said the accessibility of Demorest librarians help her students. “I am encouraged by the dedication of our Demorest librarians to help our Athens students and fill in the gaps,” she said.

Glass said the facility that will house the Athens campus presents a new opportunity to better serve Athens students.

“A new building is much better for us because we can configure it to our current and future needs,” he said.

But until the move is finalized, it’s hard for Athens students to not notice the shrinking availability of physical resources on their campus. “We lost our bookstore and the library in one semester,” Stevens said, referring to the earlier closure of the college bookstore on the Athens campus. “ This has been devastating for our campus regarding resources.”

Stevens, a former QEP Student Fellow on the Athens campus, added that the physical library space will have a negative impact on the campus community. “Now, Athens campus students will have to use other resources, which in return would further distance students away from the Athens Campus.”

As the Athens campus continues to evolve, Silber said the changes are necessary for the college’s sustainability in Athens.

“I think Piedmont is headed in a very positive direction, we are making the changes I think we need to remain a competitive institution,” said Dan Silber.