Two attributes seem to stand out about our campus community, I have found. One is that it is full of people who love to complain, which I find kind of ironic given that we are supposed to be a school full of engineers and engineers are supposed to develop solutions to problems rather than stand around and whine about them. The second is that it is stuck in many of its old ways, eschewing change for the sake of preserving tradition and what is familiar.
So given the above, when it is announced that a campus fixture has a wrecking ball headed its way you can expect some noise to be made about it. Such has been the case with the proposed demolition of the library fountain so that the area can be replaced with a new set of stairs, reminiscent of the Spanish Steps in Rome. It’s part of the transformation of the center of campus, the centerpiece of which is the Clough Undergraduate Learning Commons (CULC).
The way some have reacted to this announcement, one would think someone had suggested something drastic, like that our fight song no longer presume that everyone who attends this university is an alcoholic male studying engineering. We’ve even had a sit-in to protest the fountain’s demise, which represents a pretty serious show of resistance from a student body who typically restricts its outcry to the avenues of Technique slivers, Facebook statuses and Post-It note signs.
The fact is that this fountain will not be missed. Don’t get me wrong; I like the library fountain. I’ve spent more than one afternoon doing homework perched on its ledge. I’ve seen people bathe their dogs in it and I’ve seen it turned into a foaming volcano via the power of dishwasher soap. When it has water, it’s an asset to this campus. But that doesn’t mean it’s not expendable.
Let’s start with the simplest reason. We have a beautiful fountain in the middle of campus. It has spacious, easy-to access amphitheatre-style seating surrounding it. Best of all, it contains a towering monument to Tech’s most time-honored tradition: “The Shaft”. It’s all located less than 700 feet from the library fountain. Do we really need two fountains that close to each other?
Just wait for the CULC to be completed. The middle of campus will have undergone such a tremendous transformation, from the improved academic facilities to the indoor and outdoor lounging space, that future students will wonder how we ever managed without it. Even the proposed Spanish Steps-style staircase will represent a better place to sit down and hang out than the current library fountain.
Perhaps you don’t think we even need to redevelop the staircase connecting the library and Skiles Walkway. If so, be glad you don’t require a wheelchair. The current path for a disabled student to reach the library from the Student Center is to cross Skiles Walkway, make a right into Skiles, take the elevator up, walk across Skiles, exit on the second floor and take the bridge across. Whether it’s a ramp or a library entrance at the level of Skiles Walkway, this needs to be fixed. If the new plans don’t include a ramp, that’s worth protest.
If the objection is to the removal of one of campus’s few instances of standing water, have no fear. In all likelihood, the future of Peters parking deck will be a green space (an actual grassy area, not a parking deck painted green) with a pond in the middle of it.
This is what Tech’s current Master Plan calls for and what, barring a radical shift in approach to campus landscaping, should make its way into the 25 year plan next fall. A beautiful pond in a spacious park will put to rest any notions about the fountain being some great loss to campus.
Nobody is looking forward to more construction, and it might be more honest if we marketed ourselves to prospective students as the Georgia Construction Zone of Technology. I understand if you object to tearing up the library fountain and Skiles Walkway staircase on the grounds that we’re already past the acceptable threshold of how much construction can be done while still maintaining a habitable campus. I would suggest the students be flexible and understand that the resulting improvement to our campus after this wave of construction will be incredible.
Nevertheless I do want to extend my heartiest appreciation to the students who participated in the sit-in. Though we might disagree now, I really am glad to see students take an interest in a campus issue. My hope is that the next time an issue really demands a student protest, that interest renews.