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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Killing me lightly

For the past year the Trinity University Murchison Tower has been sporting festive accent lights in its upper four windows. In last week's Trinitonian, the skilled and controversy-stirring Ben Conway opined about his issues with these lights.

Of course, I should explain that this is a project I have been intimately involved with. It dates back to ASR wanting to do something for the holidays to compete with the "Light the Way" Incarnate Word University lights. The idea was to do something unique to Trinity, something understated by comparison to our neighbors, and something attention-grabbing. As those students moved on, I was left to pursue this project. My former VPs wouldn't advance my modest capital request for funding, citing other priorities, so I did it myself when I was interim VP.

Lighting the tower was the perfect response to our neighbors and to do something different. In Ben's column, unfortunately not published on-line, he takes issues with the lights as being tacky and in some ways as defiling of the monument the tower is to this bastion of education.

Indeed, the initial plan was to line the tower in lights from top to bottom ala some of the buildings of downtown Dallas. This proved to be too expensive. That is probably good. Our first lighting guy, Shawn, suggested that we just outline the windows. This has turned out well, in my opinion. The lights are not over-powering, can be seen throughout campus and from the highway and neighborhood, but do not overwhelm.

The lights themselves, are a series of small tubes and they can be lit for holidays and special occasions. They are currently pink, because it is October. Other shows include ones for Christmas, Hanukah, Halloween, New Year's elction days, Cinco de Mayo, Fiesta, and more. They are not always lit, but are illuminated for these special occasions. The best part for me, is that our second light guy, Mike, has set up these lights so I no longer physically have to run up to the top of the tower to change SIM cards. With his expertise and the hard work of Clara Wells in my office I can manage the light shows from an app on my phone. This is probably the only real power I have on campus.

That the lights disrespect or commercialize our great institution seems a flawed argument. We aren't the first to do this. One need only look at Big Ben, the Empire State Building, and the Eiffel Tower to see that we are in decent company. (Surely some French dude is out there blogging about the Trinity Tower in his own lighting defense.) In San Antonio the Quarry smoke stacks, to the north, are lit, and to the south, so is the Tower of the Americas.

I know, if someone jumped off of a festively lit bridge, would we? No. But we are not out of line with these sweet little lights: They are festive, fun, measured, tasteful, and draw attention to this beautiful campus. They show innovation and that we don't take ourselves too seriously - except for maybe me. Their installation was supported by the student government and the alumni. They show that we are not just internally focused, but are part of this festive city. For these reasons, they gently add to the fabric of what makes us stand-out in a crowded educational marketplace.

So it is my way... or the Conway. Vote on the poll at right.

11 comments:

Class of '91 said...

It seems like a very ungreen, unsustainable choice and a waste of electricity to me.

David said...

Thanks for your comment '91. Great point. The lights are LED and don't draw a lot of power. Probably they are on about 60 nights a year. I appreciate you reading me!

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marney Babbitt said...

"I can manage the light shows from an app on my phone. This is probably the only real power I have on campus."

you make me smile and laugh from a afar! Hope all is well.

EKW said...

I like them!

Harry Wallace said...

I share Conway's take on the LED aesthetics (keep up the good work on your urban observations, Ben). My objection is not the existence of the lights, their brightness, or the demented color management (just kidding, DT). I just think the imposition of the LED rectangle spoils the architecture of the arched opening.

Felicia Kemp said...

As usual, it astonishes me that this is what people are up in arms about. I LOVE it and WISH they had been up while I was a student. While I lived in Manhattan it always brought me a smile to see the Empire State Bldg glowing brightly and tastefully. Perhaps whining can better be used focused on something else.

David Tuttle said...

FLEO - I know whining, but I don't think Ben was doing that. I liked his piece and that he made a reasoned argument. His article was the first and only one in two years or so about the lights, so I am grateful. TU hasn't even covered them. I DO appreciate that you always have my back though!

Lyndsey said...

I think they're awesome! And I have witnessed the awesomeness of DT changing the colors from his phone. It's pretty neat. It's the simple things that make us giddy, and it's fun to celebrate the city and the seasons.

Anonymous said...

Dean Tuttle-you do a lot of things to make students feel more at home on our campus and I think this is one of them! I loved the lights during my time at Trinity and I appreciate how you recognized different faiths, holidays and causes through the color schemes. They're tasteful and a fun way to celebrate the seasons. Never get rid of them!

Anonymous said...

I don't have so much a problem with the lights in general, as I do with the colors used/the flashing displays. A single, solid, tasteful color used to outline the windows does add a classy festive touch. It's when we put up flashing displays or garish colors that I tend to agree with Ben on the subject - that is what comes off as tacky and commercial. So, as Mr. Burgundy said, "Stay classy, Trinity."