Massachusetts Daily Collegian

The Cons of the Constant Construction

By Josh Steinberg

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The crisp bite of the autumn air nips delicately at my face as I stroll through campus. A deep inhalation fills my lungs with cool, refreshing air. Tinges of orange paint the tips of trees and prepare for their annual takeover. Shorts are still in style and the unmistaken sound of flip-flops smacking heels rings throughout the campus. I think to myself, it really is a picturesque autumn day.

Wait, what the …

The horrid noise of steel destroying concrete stabs my ears as I walk past the Campus Center and towards the pond.  Once home to an impressively large gaggle of geese and the UMass Quidditch Team, the North Lawn of the campus pond now hosts neither. Instead, it hosts a rather large, obtrusive construction site eloquently dubbed, “Academic Classroom Building.”

The view of the pond from the top floors of the library used to be fit for a postcard. Now, I can’t fathom a reason to even venture up that high. All I have to look at now is uncovered earth and that strange, vibrant wallpaper that covers the outer walls of every project in its mid-construction stage, before they layer bricks or concrete over.

Wait, I have an idea.

I’ll just venture to the other side of Du Bois and gaze at the natural beauty of the Southern side of campus. There are mountains in the distance with trees standing tall, green and healthy. There are kids gallivanting around the soccer field, taking full advantage of every minute of summer that remains. There are majestic, half-built and unfurnished piles of concrete where thousands of Commonwealth College kids will gather (hopefully) in the fall of 2013.

I am all for the improvement of the University. I will be graduating this year and I want my overpriced piece of paper, known to some as a diploma, to pull as much weight as possible.

But I simply do not understand the logic behind undergoing nine construction projects – the Academic Classroom Building, the Commonwealth Honors College Residential Complex, the Du Bois elevator replacements, the Goessmann Lab Renovation, the Lederle Graduate Center construction, the Life Sciences Lab, the Lincoln Campus Center Concourse Renovation, Northwest ‘Chiller Loop’, and the Old Power Plant demolition – at once .

The CHCRC alone is a $186.5 million project. Do not forget there are still the eight other projects listed above to fiscally account for. Are you still wondering why tuition is steadily on the rise?

It seems logical to me that if all the constructive resources and manpower scattered throughout the campus were focused onto one, two or three projects, they would be completed light-years quicker. It would also save us the eye-sore, pedestrian traffic, and motor congestion that is seemingly looming around every corner.

This campus is obsessed with construction.

If you are not satisfied enough looking at construction projects constantly during the day, do not worry. On the UMass ‘Facilities Planning’ page, you can watch the construction sites for the Life Sciences Lab and the Old Power Plant from the comfort of your bedroom.

All you have to do is download the special audio add-on, ‘jackhammer melody,’ and you get the full effect.

When I was choosing a college, part of the allure of the University of Massachusetts was the serene landscape and tranquil New England environment. I live in New York City, home to an overabundance of unnecessary and painfully slow construction sites. Not a day went by in my four years of high school where some portion of my commute was not hindered by construction.

So I escaped.

I came to Amherst, where the only traffic has come from the notoriously narrow, single-lane bridge going over the pond.

The only traffic, that is, until now.

Now, I revert back to my high school days where I have to dance around peoples’ heels as I sift through the endless crowds that pollute the campus.

In 10 years, I am sure I will come back to visit the campus and marvel. On that same day, in between gasps of disbelief, awed by the beauty of our newly constructed campus, I will turn to my colleague and say, “Man, I remember how much it sucked when they were building all this stuff.”

Josh Steinberg is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]


1 Comment

One Response to “The Cons of the Constant Construction”

  1. Jan Dichter on September 29th, 2012 12:04 pm

    Glad to see this – did you see my recent piece about campus architecture? I would like to someday see a more developed critique of construction and development that focuses more on price tags and purposes than sound levels (which i agree are obnoxious). A lot of schools are building like crazy. Part of the reason is that they are competing for students, grants and research contracts. Another part, and the reason they are called ‘capital improvements’, is because they are actually capital assets, something to borrow against. The restructuring of academic space is associated to the changing composition of what a university is – for instance, nationwide employment is declining for full-time professors, while schools are hiring more administrators than ever. I have another piece coming out soon that touches on this.


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