Opinion: Construction confusion is a symptom of a larger issue

Lack of communication on construction projects reveals disconnect between students and administration

Opinion: Construction confusion is a symptom of a larger issue

Students, rejoice: the quad is back. Construction projects revitalizing AU’s pipe system concluded over winter break, freeing most of the quad of burdens imposed by recent construction.

Some of those burdens included noise pollution, delays to class and a quad that closely resembled a maze, with paths changing weekly and unclear entrances to buildings. While many students noted the time delays and other inconveniences of construction, I’ve experienced it firsthand. I live in Anderson Hall, and I have a direct view of the new Hall of Science building being built on the south side of campus. Most mornings, after a solid six to eight hours of rustling around in bed, I awaken to the sound of drilling and other construction noises. It’s extremely loud and I typically can’t fall asleep again  after it starts. So, to those students complaining about the disruption to campus: trust me, I understand. 

I’m not alone; a growing number of students are annoyed with the disruptions. Call it a minor inconvenience, but the construction on campus certainly impacts our education.

Still, there are benefits to the construction. Science departments need new facilities and construction on the Hall of Science is a step forward for STEM students and faculty. The quad construction will continue to tout AU’s status as a carbon-neutral campus and exhibit environmental-friendly practices other campuses can model.

So if these construction projects are needed and having a positive impact on our campus, what’s the problem? It’s a safe bet to assume students would be understanding of a few construction inconveniences if they fully grasped the importance and necessity of the construction. 

I think the issue is a narration problem. There is a growing belief on campus that our administration simply doesn’t care about its students enough, and this disconnect is growing.

I love AU and I genuinely don’t want to believe that the administration doesn’t care, but during my first year here, I’ve watched AU drop the ball on the communication front too many times, especially on construction. Why not tell students that you understand the inconveniences that come with construction, but that the long-term benefits will improve our campus? Instead, it often feels like the administration won’t acknowledge students’ issues, or will acknowledge them without offering a solution by truly engaging with the student body. 

This severely strains the relationship between students and University officials. That’s unfortunate too, because there are many staff and faculty members doing important work to support students. Failures from the top are trickling through the student body, and our frustrations with the administration are piling up.

Sending students weekly updates on the construction or informing students about what parts of campus are closed are simple ways to begin fixing the narrative. There’s a clear disconnect on our campus. Whether it’s about construction, issues with campus police or the escalating mental health conversation, the gap between the administration and its students seems to be getting bigger. 

Communication strategies focused on reconnecting with students need to be at the front of the administration’s efforts. Transparency and honesty go far, and the student body will appreciate and recognize it. Issues seeming trivial to the administration, perhaps such as construction inconveniences, are opportunities to connect with students. But until our campus takes these steps and the narrative is changed, the divide will continue to grow.

Zach Hill is a freshman in the School of Communication and a columnist for The Eagle. 

zhill@theeagleonline.com

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