Development of new science center comes at cost of current student needs

Let me start off by saying that I am a petty person. I’m small-minded, easily agitated and always spiteful. I’m overeducated, overwhelmed, and underemployed. In my life I’ve struggled with health issues, family issues and a fair share of vices. Recently I’ve been grappling with graduating in seven semesters, too few employment prospects and too (2) many theses. In short, I’ve got a lot to deal with, but today I just want to focus on our dearly demolished Terrace Apartments bridge.

Roughly a year ago, the old rickety wooden bridge straight out of an Indiana Jones movie that connects campus proper to the TAs and Walker Field House was sectioned off and condemned as being unsafe for use. Months went by, seasons changed, but the bridge remained the same, blocked off on both ends. TA residents, visitors, athletes, and gym rats were forced to either walk out of the way to an industrial steel bridge, or, for the more impatient and adventurous, to tightrope it across a large pipe running across the tiny creek that separates the two parts of campus. At the end  of the last spring semester, the bridge was still boarded up but my friends and I were optimistic. Surely it would all be sorted out when we returned for the fall of our senior year.

This was not the case. When I returned this past fall, no progress on the bridge had been made, but I was surprised to learn that Vassar had just broken ground on a multi-million dollar two year project that would bring a new, state-of-the-art science building to Vassar College. After doing a limited amount of research, I discovered that this new building, still a pile of turned up earth to the untrained eye, had received a name: The Bridge.

Ouch.

The fact that Vassar would spend several years and millions of dollars on bringing cutting edge resources to future students without so much as touching a broken bridge that’s been an inconvenience for current students every day for over a year is preposterous. For this new “Bridge to Discovery” only a few hundred yards from the TA gangplank, now torn down and replaced by lovely bright orange cones and mesh fencing, they’ve brought in a construction crew and expensive equipment and materials without even as much a trip to Home Depot for our poor old TA Bridge. Don’t get me wrong, this building will provide amazing opportunities for students pursuing an education in the sciences ­— if they happen to be sophomores or younger, as this modern marvel won’t be ready until 2015. While the first class of students to fully benefit from this building for four years are still stressing about things such as the SATs or Prom Night (after all, it’s only a year away,) current residents on the fifth floor of Raymond live in a psych ward, bathrooms in Main and Cushing are crumbling, and Lathrop students often find themselves bunking with bed bugs. Even when underclassman finally escape to the TH’s, they’ll soon find that the stove-tops are crooked and the living room lighting is poor (black light parties are actually an improvement,) making once easy tasks like eating or reading more difficult then they have to be.

But, at least in terms of the bridge, last week help was reportedly finally on the way! According to an email sent before spring break, when TA residents woke up to go to class on April 1st, the bridge would finally be completed! Instead of traversing the metal bridge, hundreds of students would instead be able to cross a brand new—

April fools!

At least that message would have been a more apt subject to the email that was sent out the very next day, saying that the bridge would not be completed until May 10th due to their contractor’s failure to obtain the proper timbers. After an entire year, the reason this bridge won’t be built until two weeks before graduation is that they can’t find the right wood? I think any kind of timber would be preferable to the wood that we have for a bridge now (which is currently none at all.)

I know what you’re all thinking: Matt, this isn’t a big deal. I know that it isn’t. I’m not really complaining about Vassar’s accommodations as much as their priorities.  To whoever is in charge of what gets built or fixed and what doesn’t: shame on you. You pull out all stops for the luxury of students that have yet to apply while you can’t be bothered to fix or improve basic accommodations for its students that are here now. Seeing that building go up while the bridge stays torn down makes my personal experience here feel unimportant — a tertiary point to some grander scheme. Why fix the bridge to the TA’s?

Us upperclassman who live there will be gone soon anyway, right? And if Vassar waits just one more year, hardly anybody will even be left who remembers that there was a bridge there in the first place. I’m not saying that this new science building isn’t important or  that it shouldn’t be built. I just think that by putting all this effort into a long-term goal and ignoring current needs, Vassar is mortgaging its current goodwill in hopes of attaining goodwill in the future. Don’t get me wrong; I’m grateful for and appreciate Vassar, but I don’t think Vassar appreciates us. If you disagree, or think that there isn’t at least a small degree of truth to what I’m saying, feel free to email or call me, because I have a bridge I’d like to sell you.

 

—Matt Elisofon ‘13 is an English major.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *