By Ryan Hiles
Construction is a word we don’t often think about on any kind of deep level. It’s used ubiquitously as a blanket term for any project in which we see jackhammers, orange cones and traffic. None of these things are inaccurate, but think about what construction actually is, or for that matter should be, in a slightly more specific way. It means that something, whether it’s a building or a newly paved, road is actually being built. As you look around campus, you’ll see a lot of jackhammers, cones and backed up traffic, but what you won’t always see, sadly, is construction.
Of course there are improvements that need to be made to the infrastructure and aesthetics of the campus. Roads are cracked and uneven, some of the bridges on campus have looked shabby in the last few years and the parking situation remains mind-numbingly unresolved. All of these are real issues on our campus, and all need to be addressed. There’s no argument against responsible spending on necessary maintenance, yet issues still remain. One is what these construction projects around campus are actually about and what they entail for students in the future. Another issue is how these projects highlight how that money could, and should, be used to reduce student expenses.
The most immediately obvious of the recent construction projects that have been plaguing students and drivers alike this summer is the Floyd Street facelift. Let’s be honest; it looks gorgeous. The shrubbery and newly-paved blacktop help soften the dominating grey of the surrounding cement jungle. It even makes me glad that people’s first thought upon exiting the interstate and visiting our fine campus will now be, “Wow, they’ve done some nice work here,” instead of, “Wow, that McDonalds looks busy.”
This is where it’s hard to argue against spending on cosmetic improvements to the campus because, the truth is, we all appreciate them on some level. No one wants to walk around a decrepit, dilapidated campus. A beautiful campus is a point of pride.
Unfortunately, the printers in the library don’t accept pride. Nope, those are still 10 cents a page. As the cost of tuition continues deeper into the stratosphere with each passing year, it’s sometimes hard to fight the feeling that the university is nickel-and-diming students to pay for vanity projects.
That same feeling arises when I get an email from the University reminding me that parking passes are now on sale. Don’t get me wrong, $100 isn’t cheap, but certainly not unheard of for a yearlong parking pass. The thing is, as anyone who has ever purchased one of those passes can attest, even when you buy a pass, parking can still be nearly impossible to find. This is harder to swallow when, instead of building new parking options for students, the University decides to lop off the section of the Kurz lot nearest to the campus, and convert it to a pay lot (and not a cheap one at that).
It seems to fall into a pattern of the University looking to big picture ideas when the (largely financial) needs of students are relegated to the back burner. The reality is that free printing just isn’t as sexy as a beautifully arranged road. It’s not this university’s fault that nationwide, public college campuses continue to grow more extravagant. But seriously, realize where your bread is buttered. Take care of student costs first and worry about bluster and aesthetics later.