Preserving Campus Beauty

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As the recent online article, “Want to bet which campus was ranked most beautiful?” attests to, Colgate University has always prided itself on both the natural and architectural beauty of its campus. During my Homecoming Weekend visit, however, I began to fear that one is coming at the expense of the other. The new student townhouses on 12B, the ongoing renovation of the library, and the future construction of the Ho Science Center are all admirable developments that will contribute to Colgate on many levels. But as these projects are carried out, it is essential not to neglect the natural environment.

Blessed by location, Colgate has never had to work too hard to be such an idyllic setting for student life and academics, but as more money, time, and attention are given to structural improvements, it is important to give equal support to maintaining the campus’s natural beauty. In just five months after my graduation, pine trees had vanished, stretches of grass had been dug up, and new parking lots had appeared. While I realize that some aesthetics must take a back seat during the construction process, there must be compensation for the losses, and more importantly, there must be the promise of restoration.

What offended my friends and me the most during our Homecoming visit was the new parking lot on the east side of the Old Golf Course. I understand that construction vehicles need space in order to build the new science center, but it wrenched my heart to see gravel, cars, and lights where I once took stress-relieving walks, where my friends and I had picnics and gazed at the stars. And speaking of stars, though the lot may be small, the increase in light pollution is not, complicating first-hand study of astronomy at the nearby observatory. Incensed by this, a couple of my friends went straight to President Chopp’s house to voice their concerns. Despite the late hour, President Chopp addressed the issue, reassuring them that the parking lot was only a temporary fixture for construction purposes.

Then what of the paved walkway, with railing, leading away from the lot between Andrews and the Coop? That looked pretty permanent to me. And now that the new townhouses provide more student housing, why couldn’t Gatehouse have been razed to provide space for a lot? And furthermore, why couldn’t Colgate have chosen more environment-friendly lights for the parking lot? It seems ironic that in creating a stellar new science center, Colgate is actually hindering current science studies. (I won’t even approach the present library situation.)

As a loving alum and donor (albeit in very small amounts), I’d like to know that Colgate continues to put thought and money into keeping the campus beautiful, just as it puts thought and money into the new buildings. Those snowy walks and nights looking up at the stars were vital to my Colgate experience, and I would like them to be preserved for future generations of Colgate students.

-Bridget Ryan ’05