Flames of the Torch

A best-selling book and popular saying in recent years has been “Don’t sweat the small stuff,” but in the midst of numerous multi-million dollar renovations, St. John’s has completely forgotten about the small stuff, which isn’t really so small after all.

Constructing new residential and academic buildings, as well as aesthetically enhancing the existing space, have been the top priorities of the University. And rightfully so. With an increased number of students, and resident students more specifically, sufficient housing should be the main goal. And new coats of paint, new desks and new classrooms are all important in the academic realm. But what about the small stuff?

In many of the academic buildings across campus, and specifically St. John Hall, temperature control is a major issue. The heat is often unbearable in the warmer months, and the arctic cold in the winter is no better. But these problems have yet to be remedied. The most simple problems, with likely some of the most basic solutions, are being shelved until a later date, the promise they are being looked into being too little too late.

“We started the process of auditing all of these buildings,” said Brij Anand, vice president of Facilities Services. “The infrastructure needs to be updated. There’s a level of commitment that the University has to support that. What we would probably do is look at the windows and either replace them or seal them to make sure that they don’t leak.

“And we are really looking to upgrade the air conditioning and heating systems,” Anand continued. “That is very much being worked on now. We are waiting for the architects and engineers to come up with a recommendation.”

Keeping with the trend of too little too late is the University’s newest project, a series of residential townhouses. The 16 structures, which will house students as well as the priests currently residing in St. Vincent Hall, will add a mere 450 beds to the Residence Village. After three years of housing shortages, 450 additional beds does not seem enough.

The structures will top out at three stories, too small for more beds. In an attempt to use a “common architectural language” and design buildings that will fit, aesthetically, with the rest of the surrounding community, St. John’s has chosen to ignore the gravity of the housing situation.

But look at the rest of the campus. A structural quilt, the Queens campus is comprised of buildings old and new, vast and minute. Not one of the current structures could be said to “fit” with the community, which is, aside from the businesses on Union Turnpike, comprised of one- and two-story residences. Why the sudden concern with fitting in then?

Having raised more than $270 million dollars during the Capital Campaign, and proposing to spend $150 million on the already-proposed renovations, money doesn’t seem to be an issue. Not that it should be.

Maybe by sweating the small stuff, St. John’s could save money and time and appease a student body that has grown increasingly skeptical of administrative decisions that seem to fall short of basic needs like air conditioning.

Sweating the small stuff just might turn an already good university into a great one.