Neighbors have legitimate concerns over Campus Plan
By Douglas Bell
AU’s 2011 Campus Plan has generated a hefty amount of buzz so far this semester, not only among AU students and administration but among the neighboring community as well. Students have generally been told to support the plan as the key to providing more housing on campus, while local neighbors have generally been told to oppose the plan as the symbol of AU’s encroachment on their private lives.
That’s a lot of fuss to be had over a complex 53-page document that merely outlines the construction projects AU thinks it will build in the next decade.
But I actually believe that the neighbors have some valid arguments that should be considered. Their primary concern is that adding 765 beds on what would become East Campus would impact Nebraska Avenue with traffic congestion. AU claims that this will have no impact on traffic, but even I have a hard time believing that. Just watch how many students — including myself — jaywalk in front of Katzen in between classes on a typical day. Their concerns are further aggravated by the Department of Homeland Security’s plans to double its workforce across the street, and a forthcoming expansion at Sibley Hospital.
I also have some other concerns. For one, East Campus would add only 765 beds, which is slightly more than enough to de-triple and end AU housing at the Berks. But then AU is also planning to demolish the 497 beds that it has currently at Tenley Campus. I question just how much this would actually relieve AU’s housing crisis. The Campus Plan even tacitly admits this by proposing that AU’s requirements be reduced to only have to house 55 percent of undergraduates, instead of two-thirds.
Of course, the Campus Plan is not entirely bad, nor is it perfect. But the fact remains that the consequences of the Campus Plan will be felt by very few of us current AU students, while they will definitely be felt by all of AU’s neighbors. Although last fall’s Advisory Neighborhood Commission elections riled up tensions between neighbors and students, looking ahead, we need to be willing to collaborate and compromise to reach an equitable agreement that meets everyone’s needs.
It is important for AU students to have a voice in the Campus Plan process. Let’s just make sure that we have an open mind as well.
Douglas Bell is a sophomore in the School of Communication.
An open letter to the surrounding neighbors of AU
By Emi Ruff-Wilkinson
When I saw the 2011 Campus Plan, it didn’t seem dramatic. As anyone who’s lived in a triple or been forced into the Berks can tell you, we have a legitimate housing problem. In addition to the other things AU is planning, the building of additional residence halls seems like a step in the right direction.
So I was more than a little surprised at the sheer outrage from the community. From the guy claiming he was going to run though campus with signs denouncing us to scare off prospective students, to the women threatening to call the cops every night after 10 p.m., I was a little amazed at how vehemently opposed to AU some of our neighbors are.
Yes, I get it: We’re college kids. We’re loud. We’re frequently drunk. It comes with the territory of getting a few thousand 18-to-22 year olds in a concentrated area. But you chose to live here. Construction for AU started in 1896, so unless you bought your house 116 years ago, you knew what you were getting into.
Now, as members of a community, students do have a responsibility to be neighborly. We shouldn’t be tossing empties of Natty Light along Mass Ave., and vomiting on your lawns is definitely crossing the line. But you can’t expect us to stop having fun altogether.
It’s also hard to work with people who are so rude to us. If you have concerns about the Campus Plan, let’s have a dialogue. East Campus will change traffic patterns on Nebraska, so how should we find a solution? What won’t help is if you use the Campus Plan as an excuse to rage against AU. It won’t solve anything (AU isn’t going anywhere), and your disrespect doesn’t give us a reason to treat you any differently. The vague, angry, all-or-nothing attitude many in the community seem to hold will just foster more animosity.
Although, why should I even care? Barring any disasters, I’ll be out of here in May 2013. But by then, I’ll have invested four years and over $200,000 dollars in AU. I really love it here, and I care because I want future students to love it too. I would hate to see this neighborhood situation spiral out of control to the point that it hinders AU’s progress. Yes, as students, we have an obligation to be neighborly. But so do you.
Emi Ruff-Wilkinson is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences.
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