The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Footpath Freedom

Mary Claire O'Donnell | Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I am a big fan of ease and efficiency. My motto is “if you can get there faster, why not?” This is probably a result of my constant miscalculation of the time it takes to get places and always needing to make up time, but it works for me. This is why the black metal fences that have sprung up across campus have really been killing me.

Aside from the fact that they really hamper my walking, they’re also just not very attractive. They stick out like sore thumbs on a campus that loves to build with yellowish sandstone bricks. I know people always say that black goes with everything, but on this count, I can’t agree. Their black metal spokes are jarring and seem so out of place to me every time I see them.

But aesthetics aside, the barriers cramp my style constantly. I returned from abroad to find myself unable to cross the grassy knoll in front of McGlinn Hall to return home. When I walked with my friends to South Dining Hall from Duncan Hall, I had to reroute myself in order to avoid the new black blockade.

I was stunned. I didn’t understand why these new black fences were keeping me from my intended destinations. I just wanted to crash in my room and take a quick nap in between classes or make myself a delicious wrap at SDH while catching up with my friends. And sure, the fences didn’t really add much time to my walk, but they did add some time. And when you are trying to beat the dinnertime rush or catch up on lost sleep, every second counts.

And then, I returned to school this year to find even more fences blocking my paths. I tried to round the corner of Alumni near Main Circle, but found my way blocked. I tried to walk to Ryan Hall and found a fence in the grass directly in front of the door. These new fences dot campus sporadically, yet always seem to find me when I am in a rush.

I’ll paint you a picture. Last Thursday was a busy day for me, or at least busy end of the day. I had class in Debartolo until 4:45 p.m., which usually runs late, then a meeting in CoMo at 5 p.m., and then a mass in Ryan Hall at 5:30 p.m. which I had to attend as an Andrews Scholar. I had planned my routes to and from each event and was ready to speed walk.

I’ll admit, I’m a pretty good speed walker — I once made it to Debartolo from McGlinn in 2.5 minutes because I woke up at 9:35 a.m. for a 9:35 a.m. class. I can weave my way through a crowd with ease, but I need good momentum. One roadblock can take my hare’s pace down to that of a tortoise. A tortoise that won’t win that footrace.

And so, as I crisscrossed campus that day, I was a woman on a mission. I had deadlines to meet. I was making it to mass on time because I had not worn a dress all day for nothing. But as I cut across the lawn in front of Ryan Hall with a minute to spare, I found my way unexpectedly blocked. Black metal stood in between me and an on-time mass arrival.

Luckily, mass started late that day. But this has not always happened. Those pesky fences have made me late for more than one meeting, always cropping up at the worst times.

I understand that footpath traffic can create ruts in the grass that my landscaping uncle would probably cry over. But they don’t always. Also, this is a college campus, students walk places. The thing that really gets me, however, is that the majority of these fences can be found on or near South and West Quads. Are we just that unruly over there that you need to contain us?

Also, the fences don’t prevent me walking on those grassy patches, just in one direction. I can walk across the grass from McGlinn to Pangborn, but not from Duncan to South. Is this a subtle message to the Highlanders that they spend too much time at South?

Whatever the answers to these questions, I just would like to lodge my opinion about our new landscaping ideas. If you just didn’t want people walking on the grass on West Quad, I would like to offer a different solution from these fences.

Have you ever noticed how pristine the grass on God Quad is? That’s because everyone is terrified to walk on it. Next year at Frosh-O, start telling the freshmen that if they step on the lush green lawns of South Quad, the football team won’t finish with a winning record.

Give it a few years and no one will touch that grass, with or without a fence.

The views in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Mary Claire O’Donnell at modonne5@nd.edu