The Collegian
Sunday, February 25, 2024

Letter: A livable campus environment

When will this school learn how to allow a livable campus environment? Most likely not during my time here, but I hope during the interim, someone who makes decisions will weigh a few varied and serious concerns.

1. This school should allow organizations and groups of friends to lobby for housing collectively.

Ideally, a functioning city contains areas created for every type of person and various activities. On our campus, there are only a few institutionalized, late-night activities: the gym, the Commons/The Cellar, The Dean's Den and the library. Entertainment is otherwise completely privatized within apartments and lodges.

Thus, it might be good to consider the apartments for what they are: coffee shops, bars, lounges and nightclubs. These spaces are essentially providing what our school and surrounding neighborhoods have failed to provide otherwise. Thus, each housing placement should be considered a creation of place - the crazy party place, the studious place and the eclectic place.

Most cities have created these same distinctions (i.e. Shockoe Bottom for Richmond nightlife) and it would be wise for our school to do the same. The best way to create excellent apartment communities is to allow the existing community to infiltrate the space and create new distinctions of place.

Allowing student groups and organizations (yes, that includes Greeks, Rugby and Frisbee) to lobby together gives us a sense of agency and allows us to insert our existing community into our living spaces. Left as is, the system will continue to ruin social fabric, encourage competitive anxiety and stunt relationship growth.

2. Prove to me that this campus exists to be enjoyed rather than observed.

Our campus is more a selling point for tour guides than a playground for students. It's frustrating to live in a place that was not designed for human enjoyment. Our manicured grass is for looking, our lake is for looking and our forest is for little more than looking.

Thus, whoever makes the decisions around here could begin to prove to me that students are meant to enjoy this place by hanging a rope swing from one of the oaks in front of the library. As it stands, this place is merely a background for my preppy clothes and pensive facial expression as in our publications and their staged photos. Our campus is beautiful and I love it ... but it just isn't fun.

3. Let us do the job for you.

My final point is this: No school administration can fully satisfy my requests. There is no easy way to plan quirkiness - quirkiness is necessarily individual and spontaneous. Thus, all we need is some freedom and we, the students, will create the university that we desire.

Our school should encourage ingenuity by allowing student businesses on campus -- don't hassle us every step of the way. It would be great to let students in the business school manage The Cellar and 8:15 at Boatwright. They would bring fresh ideas and knowledge of the students' needs.

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What cafe in the real world would close on Friday afternoon the way 8:15 at Boatwright does? Rather than bringing in an acoustic guitar and letting people hang out in the evening, it closes and forces the scene off campus.

Finally, we should allow the art department to commission or plan murals for every apartment block and something for the rest of campus as further proof that this place was meant to be enjoyed by us, the residents.

I understand there are big plans for redeveloping parts of our school that include a lot of complicated ideas and big-money consultants. That's all fine, but in the meantime, it would be wise for someone to consider making concessions and allowing some semblance of student expression in our living spaces.

That way, when some firm from New York starts to draw the future of our campus, it will actually know what we want and need. Congratulations, you got me back to writing.

Michael Rogers was the 2008-2009 opinion editor of The Collegian.

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