It is apparent that our campus is undergoing several cosmetic changes. By now the development work we see is just another element of our campus, and we’ve all figured out how to maneuver our way through the construction to get to class on time. And with the recent announcement of the redesign of the area known as the 32nd Street Esplanade between Chestnut and Market streets, getting into the Main Building will soon be a bit more of a hassle because the side doors will be blocked off.
A popular concern among Drexel students is that our campus will forever be engulfed in scaffolding, fences and heavy machinery. But students have also been known to complain that Drexel’s campus is not large enough to house the increasingly large freshman classes. As you’re probably aware, housing difficulties began in the fall of 2010, resulting in students being crammed into too little space. There was such immense student overflow that in the fall of 2011, transfer students and straggling sophomores were placed in the newly rented Axis building, located at 36th and Chestnut streets.
Another frequent complaint that students make is that Drexel’s campus is ugly. Admit it, you’ve shared one of the many “ugliest campuses” lists on Facebook and joked about it with your peers. We’d just like to remind everyone that it’s always darkest before the dawn. And, well, the dawn will eventually come.
It’s frustrating that sometimes people know about Drexel’s aesthetic ranking but don’t understand the nature of the co-op program or the scope of other great things that this school offers. But we’re not really helping to improve our reputation. Students are constantly talking about the construction’s disturbance in their lives — the physical appearance of a campus getting a facelift is bad enough, and then we have to account for closed sidewalks rerouting us on the way to class and loud noises disrupting discussions and exams. But if we want our campus to be improved, if we want to climb our way out of the “ugliest campus” rankings — current students are going to have to make some sacrifices. Progress isn’t always pretty, and that’s just something we have to accept. Students need to realize that in order to achieve a beautiful campus with more modern and sustainable building designs, we might have to spend a few terms dealing with a little mud on our shoes.
Chestnut Square is alleviating the suffocating environment that on-campus students have had to live with for years. It’s also continuing the trend of “de-orange-ifying” the campus, as Vice President of University Facilities Bob Francis has put it. With this project, the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building and the upcoming LeBow building, Drexel will truly have a new entrance, which University officials have worked years to achieve.
But speaking of complaints, one that always seems to come up in conversation is how Chestnut Square and other projects on campus are being paid for by our tuition money. Truthfully, officials enter into these projects with major donors or sponsors, and these buildings wouldn’t be going up if Drexel had to front the entire bill. Developer American Campus Communities put up about $97 million to make Chestnut Square possible. They saw this project as a lucrative partnership that will surely attract thousands from the University City area. So we shouldn’t be so quick to assume that we’ll be the ones writing the check for Chestnut Square.
Simply stated, we must remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day, and the ideal Drexel campus can’t be, either. The campus landscape has changed many times throughout Drexel’s 122-year history. We are by no means the first generation of Drexel students to have to put up with construction. Past generations also dealt with it, and they didn’t even have the Internet to help them write their papers. We’re lucky to live in a time when technology, including the features in our newest buildings, makes all aspects of our lives so convenient and comfortable.