Thank God the St. John’s administrators don’t make important decisions by student referendum. If they did, the residence halls would probable have a lot in common with the Playboy Mansion, the core course list might include intro to napping in place of, say, philosophy, and the University would surely never waste a dime on “pointless” renovations. Or so it sometimes seems. The truth is, those students that regularly rail against the University’s attempts to beautify and modernize itself may not be the numerical majority, but they are certainly the vocal majority. They are also very much in the wrong.
The complaints about the most recent on-campus construction projects are familiar to anyone who has been around the St. John’s community for more than a few months: they take too long to complete, they inconvenience students and faculty, they make the campus look like a continuously messy “work in progress” and they divert funding from more important academic endeavors. What usually goes unspoken is the more self-centered gripe that many of the improvements will not be completed until after most of us graduate, and therefore are of no use to us. Not only is that viewpoint short-sighted and inconsiderate, it’s inaccurate.
Granted, walking across campus on move-in day to find a 100-foot crane looming over Sun Yat Sen Hall in an impassable work zone is not the most welcoming experience. But if we look ahead, we’ll see that improvements like the new townhouses, renovations to Carnesecca Arena and the future UC that will overlook DaSilva field are not only in the University’s best interests, they may even benefit its current undergrads.
Perhaps the best argument against the continued aesthetic upgrades to the University is that the money could be better spent elsewhere; why waste money on a facelift, some say, when you don’t have the brains to back it up? Setting aside the fact that many of the students who would replace the inexperienced adjuncts that teach many core courses are the same that seek out professors for an “easy A,” this argument does seem to have merit. The catch is, luring the most well qualified professors, let alone students, is easier said than done.
According to a recent report by marketing research firm Lipman Hearne, campus visits were extremely important to high school seniors in deciding what schools to apply to and which one to attend, with 74 percent of those surveyed saying the visit played a role in their decision and 35 percent describing it as “very influential.” It’s tough to argue with those numbers, and it makes it clear that if you want to attract the best students, you’d better be able to compete with the best campuses. As for the professors, if you build it, they will come.
A newer, more beautiful campus is not only more appealing to prospective employees in the short term, it will also help the University to boost its reputation in the long run with the eventual result of higher overall academic standards. The results may not be immediate, but a nicer campus is a key component toward the goal of attracting the best students and the best professors.
For those still unswayed by the obvious future benefits of campus improvement projects, consider this: as the reputation of the University grows, both as an enjoyable place to receive an education and a school with high acamemic standards, your degrees will appreciate in value right before your eyes.
So even if you missed out on your last chance to live in the new townhouses and what looks to be a gorgeous new UC doesn’t take form until you’re done with grad school, you still might benefit from the money spent to make St. John’s not just a better campus, but a better University.