EDITORIAL: Rutgers' makeover is not flawless
University's rapid transformation ignores existing problems
“New year, new me!” said Rutgers University, anthropomorphically.
Students moving into campus this year are welcomed by prominent structures such as the Rutgers Academic Building, the Honors College, Jameson G residence hall and others, and there is still plenty of construction underway. The campus we now traverse stands in stark contrast from the relatively barren and lackluster environment we had not too long ago. Just try to imagine a Livingston campus without the imposing Livingston Apartments and the flashy Rutgers Business School — the campus is then reduced to a depressing and desolate landscape. The changes have been costly, but in some ways necessary.
Some of these new additions may be over the top, and many still wonder whether the steady, year-to-year tuition hike (2.3 percent increase from the 2015-2016 academic year and 1.7 percent this year) that’s partly being invested into creating luxury condominiums like The Yard at College Avenue — a $92 million complex with a giant outdoor television and apartments with singles and full-sized beds — is justified. Perhaps it is not. The issue is a controversial mixed bag, since Rutgers’ physical transformation minimally improves our educational experiences, which are the sole purpose of a university and the underlying reason for its existence. But it does enhance student life.
Rutgers is notorious for regularly budgeting money for athletics, so we can find some solace in how the new amenities are available for the non-athletes. The availability of new stores adds better and possibly healthier food options. More importantly, a few residence halls have popped up in recent years. But there was a time, particularly three years ago, when Rutgers lacked housing options for incoming students and the overflow of student residents resulted in makeshift living spaces in residence hall lounges. This last-resort housing option was unacceptable for an institution that guaranteed housing, and fortunately most students were eventually placed into adequate rooms. New residence halls have solved this issue, and Rutgers is prepared to house thousands of incoming students and returning students.
Despite how much the new residence halls help house the abundance of students, the grand and luxurious projects have overshadowed and indicates neglect for the buildings we already have. Students get either get the best dorms or the worst dorms, with few middle options. Many of the existing residence halls now are ancient, dilapidated and in dire need of renovations. If you enter some residence halls like Katzenbach, and you are given asbestos warnings when you move in, and if that can’t be changed and is just a problem inevitably attached to aging buildings, then the University can focus a bit on fixing chipping paint, faulty or loose roof tiles or fixing broken elevators.
As said, campus makeover undeniably falls short in improving the quality of our education, but the new buildings have created additional classrooms spaces like in the Honors College and the Rutgers Academic Building that allows for a comfortable learning experience. However, the same problems attributed to residence halls exist also in classrooms, and there are persistent issues that require attention. Some classrooms are falling apart, and there are temperature regulation issues in many buildings. They may be minor issues, but the University should not pretend to ignore them and be unreasonably driven to create more things without taking care of regular complaints.
It is apparent that campus aesthetics have improved as an unabashed, blatant public relations move to woo prospective applicants and help its standing with other elite universities.While its strategy has been met with significant praise, the University should not be myopic in its desire to make a beautiful campus and forget other obligations in fixing technical and minor problems that we already have.
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