This December, NJIT will be opening a fire pit for use by the university community. The project, led by Student Senate, is one of many initiatives the organization is spearheading during the fall semester, as reported by The Vector in August. Construction for the fire pit is currently underway in front of Tiernan Hall.
That location, according to Lauren Azer, a second-year biomedical engineering student and Vice President of Student Affairs in the Student Senate, was a very intentional pick for a number of reasons. Besides being a centralized spot on the campus, the space was also an effective choice when accounting for logistics problems like the routing of sprinkler systems near the green. Additionally, the space is enclosed by pathways on all sides, meaning that it won’t impact activities on the remainder of the upper green or nearby area.
“If we put [the fire pit] right behind the sand path, we’re not really dividing the green any more than it already is, so it’s a way to conserve the aesthetic of campus as well,” Azer said.
Along with the location, other details of the project have been in the planning process for several months. In the Spring 2021 semester, members of the Student Senate executive board presented a proposal for the fire pit project to the Senate general body, who then discussed and voted on the idea. This idea then slowly became a reality as various departments at NJIT, such as Campus Planning, Design and Construction, became involved.
Jamie Montano, project coordinator and CAD specialist, worked with Azer to plan out the physical design of the fire pit as well as get quotes from various companies for the project. After the planning phase, the project needed to be approved by university administration, who was supportive of the project.
Ultimately, the Wilk Construction Company was contracted for the project. Previously, the company has worked with NJIT installing shields in Weston Hall in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The company billed $59,000 for the fire pit project, which includes allowances for moving sprinklers from the area, purchasing the fire pit and seating and all of the installation steps.
The money for the project comes from the Student Senate Fund Balance. Using the $55 a semester “Student Activity Fee” charged to undergraduate students, Student Senate distributes the appropriate amount of money to student organizations and runs its own events. Any money that isn’t used during a semester is put into the Fund Balance, where it can be used for “university wide renovations, capital improvements and any other proposals that may be reviewed and approved by the Student Senate.” Recently, the Fund Balance was used to give partial Student Activity Fee refunds to students. The Student Senate’s budget makeup was most recently reported on by The Vector in September 2020.
As a project funded Student Activity Fee money, discussion of the initiative took place during public Student Senate meetings. The minutes from all meetings which took place after Mar. 3, 2021 are currently unavailable, but agendas and meeting minutes are normally available in the Student Senate’s public Google Drive folder, whose link can be found on their Highlander Hub page.
The timeline for the project, which accounts for many potential sources of delay, slates the fire pit construction to finish on Dec. 14, 2021, the day before final exams begin, meaning that students will likely be able to use the fire pit as a destressing tool.
Azer is certainly looking forward to this use case: “Imagine after taking a huge [computer science] exam, you and your classmates go surround the pit, have some s’mores, and complain about your exam.”
The Student Senate hopes for the fire pit to be a communal gathering place for residents and commuter students alike. Commuters currently have limited options in terms of meeting places, especially after classes when buildings begin to close. While plans are not finalized, the Senate hopes that the fire pit will be open for most of the day, with reservations potentially being open from the morning until as late as 11 p.m.
Reservations will be open to all students as well as to student organizations. Those who wish to use the fire pit will need to sign a waiver taking temporary responsibility over the space, and upon completing the waiver, the gas-powered fire will be turned on. There’s no need for logs, matches, or other kinds of fire starters. The only kindling needed is the kindling of friendships around the fire.