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Friday, April 8, 2011

Bridge to Nowhere


It isn't easy to secure renovation money to remove -- rather than add -- construction. I'd like to see Trinity remove the bridge, pictured above, that goes nowhere, except into a brick wall along the third floor of Thomas residence hall. Previously, there was a doorway into the building where the bridge ends. When the University went to a proximity card access program (for students to use their ID cards), my colleague, John Greene, Director Facilities Services, started eliminating exterior doors.

Originally dorms featured key access, which proved unreliable, resulted in frequent door propping, and didn't allow for accountability. The new system is far better, but far more expensive. Thus the Great Door Crusade. Students were livid. The residents in Thomas Hall would be forced to use primary entrances on first and third floors. The push-back was tremendous, as the door closure was simply more evidence (to students) of a callous administration insensitive to student wants and needs. Even if the ultimate goal was student safety.

That comes with the territory on a college campus. Students protested the creation of the now popular first-year quad, they liked - then didn't - then did, the Sophomore College and group housing/community initiatives/block housing. Former HUGE campus issues included students not clearing their own trays in the dining hall and also leaving trash cans outside their doors so maids wouldn't disturb them when sleeping in. On the latter issue, students would leave the trash cans outside and just open the door when they needed to discard trash. That created issues related to animals (in exterior halls) and drunk trash can kickers - not one in the same. There was a nasty and public halftime Homecoming tradition as well, that seemed to mock, in a very inadequate biological re-creation, the conception process. The Good Ol' Days.

Resistance to change isn't exclusive to college students, though. University professors and staff are not always completely open to shifting tides. At least with students, the turnover every four years quickly creates short memories of how things used to be. In this first year of our new President, there have been plenty of changes on campus, from banning University-bought individual water bottles in departments (some nonsense about the planet), to staffing changes at the executive level and elsewhere, to new budgeting procedures. With each change of Presidents there are always hopes for - and then resistance to - change. It is easier in theory than in practice. I am not immune either. Every time I say to students "that won't work here" or "we already tried that" I can hear the cock crowing for the third time. Dang it.

Indeed, in my own area, working with ARAMARK has brought changes to the University Club and to the new plan. The new plan addresses years of complaints, yet is being met with suspicion and some (minor) push-back. So I see the issue from both sides.

And so it goes. We can follow the same old paths that end up with us running into brick walls, or we can embrace new and different ways... and change. This is a really exciting time for our University on so many levels. And it is happening at a pace we aren't accustomed to. Not all change is good, nor is it all bad. But resistance for resistance sake can take us nowhere - other than a dead-end street.

4 comments:

Brian Sparks '00 said...

Your comment about the door and key access made me pause, so I pulled out my old Trinitonian archives from my freshman year. The action, in which students said they were "insulted," apparently warranted a front page story in Nov. 1996.

In case anyone care, nothing was said at the time about card access, which was still many years off. Instead, a certain Director of Residential Life is quoted as mentioning that it had to do with an old-style door that was never meant to be keyed in the first place and was repeatedly broken, leading to safety concerns--as well as complaints from nearby Thomas 3rd residents about the noise generated by the foot traffic.

Details aside, the larger point is well-taken: controversies and annoyances persist from one generation to the next. What's amazing, though, is that after 15 years, the aptly named "bridge to nowhere" is still there! Time for it to go.

David Tuttle said...

Brian,

My apologies. I didn't mean to go Greg Mortenson on my readers. The key access was a huge problem and this did lead to going with card access, though I may have merged the two in my fuzzy memory. Plus, the Trinitonian that year, a certain editor... I just don't know.

E. K. W. said...

I have always wondered about that bridge and am so glad you finally cleared that up!

David said...

EKW,

That kind of feedback will keep me blogging another few years!