Hurray! The construction on the fountain outside the Glenn G. Bartle Library is complete! For a year we waited. We were inconvenienced. We forcibly traversed narrow walkways, surrounded by ugly metal wiring and high piles of sand and debris.
But the construction is complete and we can now rejoice over our fountain! Just in time for the fountain, along with the rest of the Southern Tier, to freeze over.
And with that realization we are reminded of the fact that construction is never really complete here at Binghamton University. Sure, one project may end. But if two cranes leave campus today, four will be back tomorrow.
The most colossal construction endeavor on campus now is the new Dickinson Community. This project, costing hundreds of millions of dollars, will be the final chapter in the revitalization of on-campus housing. That is, until they begin the destruction of the existing Dickinson dorms. Which will of course be followed by the construction of whatever will take their place — more classrooms? Administrative offices? An ecological reservation serving as a safe haven for endangered bearcats?
Upon completion, the Dickinson dorms will ostensibly be as extravagant, if not fancier, than the new buildings of Newing College. But for the time being, the Dickinson construction is an eyesore that detracts from our campus’ image, on top of putting the extant Dickinson to shame.
Ultimately, though, the Dickinson project itself is probably necessary for Binghamton to remain competitive among college applicants.
Yet of all the work being done on campus, the biggest nuisance is the ever-expanding construction area surrounding the Old University Union, encompassing the late Dickinson Amphitheater and extending well into the Peace Quad. This project is supposed to create a revitalized food court and a new “student services wing.” Keep in mind, the New University Union was only built around 10 years ago.
This project seems unnecessary and unnecessarily obtrusive. The construction zone aimed at creating the new food court brings to mind the construction of the new fountain. For almost a year, we were forced to take detours while trying to walk from the Science Buildings to Bartle Library or University Unions. Walking from the Fine Arts Building to Lecture Hall was no easy feat. Though that part of campus is now clear, as someone who was here before and after, I cannot confidently say that it was worth either the time or money.
I think we are compelled to look at our institution’s rampant constructionism with a heavy dose of skepticism.
The food court renovations, for instance, will certainly be pricey. The project also jeopardized the employment of upwards of 60 Sodexo employees. Lastly, I’m skeptical of the genuine impetus behind this project.
There are those who believe that for an institution to remain competitive, it must be in a perpetual state of either building or rebuilding. This is a dangerous way of thinking. Construction for its own sake is expensive and misguided.
True, growth is often healthy. But I believe our institution should be directing its funds toward other ends. Surely there are sensible academic programs which have either been scrapped, or never took off, for financial reasons. The philosophy, interpretation and culture (PIC) program comes to mind.
I’m not a minimalist who believes construction is inherently wrong — in fact, it can be a great thing. When a genuine need or worthwhile project emerges, construction is justifiable and will add to our school’s strengths. But what’s going on here? Do we really need these projects, these burdens or are we just giving our tour guides one more thing to talk about?