Opinion: Campus construction projects are worthwhile for future
Hall of Science, new steam lines present opportunity to make a better AU
Quadding has become a little bit harder thanks to the chain link fence and machinery that seems to have taken over AU’s campus. The library and Watkins buildings are obstructed and the area behind Letts-Anderson as well as the Asbury parking lot are blocked. The AU campus, typically ranked as one of the most beautiful, is now under siege by large construction equipment, ditches and, yes, those mazes of fencing.
The process started last year, with work on “The Beach” (the formerly grassy area beside the McKinley building) and one side of the Letts-Anderson quad. Now it has spread to other areas of campus, most notably right in front of Bender Library. Piles of pipes and dirt now greet students and visitors as they walk onto the quad.
Every student, faculty and staff member has been told why this is happening: the new Hall of Science and new underground steam lines. The message from the university has been straightforward. This is all part of a commitment to being environmentally friendly. This is all part of giving our science departments the facilities they deserve. This is all part of making American University its best version of itself.
This construction won’t be ending anytime soon. The new steam heating system is a two-year project. The Hall of Science has an completion date of July 2020, according to David Dower, Assistant Vice President of Planning and Project Management. Furthermore, the heating system will continue to take out sections of the main quad as the project goes on, making all those sunny days spent in a hammock more difficult. Students have not been shy in complaining about the effects of the construction on their daily lives, or about how current students may not particularly benefit from these projects.
For most students, especially those who do not have physical disabilities, the construction is minor inconvenience. Yes, it is unattractive. Yes, it is harder to get to the library. And yes, getting to Watkins is a trip. At the end of the day, it is just an inconvenience that the school has done their best to address. No one likes to hear this cliché, but it could be much worse.
This isn’t building for the sake of building — the time has come for these improvements. The new steam pipe system is going to heat the campus more efficiently. All those cold winter nights when the showers in Letts just couldn’t seem to get warm will hopefully be a thing of the past.
The system is also good for the planet, according to university officials. A 50 percent reduction in campus carbon usage, and a decrease in fossil fuel consumption are serious steps towards a greener campus. This is a project that needed to happen; we can all maneuver around the construction for two years.
And the Hall of Science is no vanity project. Anyone who has been to Hurst or Beeghly Halls knows the demand is serious for updated science labs. If you think it isn’t necessary because AU is just “political science,” then here’s an update: science is the fastest growing undergraduate area of study at AU. The University has fallen behind in providing the necessary classroom space and updated facilities for science majors. It’s past time that the sciences were given an updated building, so that students and faculty alike can conduct their work into the emerging frontiers of the sciences.
It is hard to deny that these are improvements for AU. Especially taking into account the University’s fall to 78 in the U.S. News and World Report college rankings this year, it is clear that the campus needs to improve for future generations of AU students. Students want schools committed to the environment. Students want decent science classes and top-notch facilities. These are literally concrete steps to pushing AU to be a better campus.
These are improvements from which not every student will benefit, though. The steam construction still has 11 months left and the Hall of Science has years. Many current students may just see the difficulty of campus construction, with no tangible benefit to them. It is easy to only look at how these projects make your life harder right now than look at how they will make someone else’s life easier in five or ten years. However, students should want better for the next class and next generation.
Working for a better AU, at the level of student life, administration, or facilities should be a shared goal. Everyone can do something to make this a better place. The new steam pipe system and Hall of Science are real facility improvements, and the Hall of Science especially will improve the lives of future students. AU should be a better campus and university than it was for us; we can make sure it is.
Samantha McAllister is a sophomore in the School of International Service and a columnist at The Eagle.
This article originally appeared in The Eagle's October 2018 fall print edition.