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viewpoint

An ill-conceived bragging point

| Thursday, January 30, 2014

The new plans for a student center, confusingly called “Campus Crossroads,” exhibit a level of cynicism and disrespect for the students that is hard to match. Students are the life of a university. Education is a university’s first mission. At Notre Dame, we claim to educate the heart and the mind, but in many ways, our investment is elsewhere. Our investment is in accruing prestige, not knowledge. We care more about maintaining our huge endowment, rather than endowing our students with the lessons of Fr. Edward Sorin and Blessed Basil Moreau. We care about going against convention and being the first to do something new, as if tradition no longer has a meaning to us.
Besides the fact that the facility in question is groundbreaking in neither design nor concept, the disregard for student need is astounding. First of all, the stadium is not the center of campus now, and it shouldn’t be. Our strength as a university is not in our sports programs, but in our faith and our academics. Secondly, the quad system of the University is completely overlooked in a design that turns the three buildings proposed away from each other and not toward each other. Instead, they have a huge field that nobody will be allowed to use lying between them, blocking any natural path from one to another. The proposal furthers the sprawl of the campus, pushing for expansion while forgetting the need to keep our campus walkable. The walkability depends on being able to travel directly and quickly to other buildings. Instead of creating a behemoth building that is difficult to walk around, every effort should be made to improve, renovate and build in the heart of campus, centered on God Quad, which houses the very symbol of our University.
I have watched this campus develop for over the past five years. I have seen the new Law School addition built, as well as Ryan Hall, Stinson-Remick Hall, Geddes Hall, the Morris Inn and the Stayer Center. I have followed the path that campus planners have been taking closely, not only because I am an architecture student, but also because among the many reasons I love Notre Dame is the beauty of its campus. Notre Dame’s campus center, which currently includes God Quad and South Quad, is distinctive, ordered and meaningful. It points not only to the early years of the University and the hard work of those that built this place we call home, but also to the fundamental realities that led to the founding of Notre Dame.
Recent developments have been haphazard and, having seen the plans for the future, I do not see our campus staying comprehensible, compact and beautiful. Instead, I see a university that is desperate to be relevant to other institutions becoming just as desperate to be relevant in higher education. I see haste and carelessness in an effort to show a good face to the world, while quality of student life, the very core of all we do, is rotting away. This new student center seems to be just another shiny package used to brag to the world that we are a premier, forward-thinking institution, while forgetting the needs of the students.

Nathaniel Gotcher
fifth-year senior
Morrissey Manor
Jan. 31

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  • Lisa

    This is an excellent letter. You are one of the few ND students who truly appreciates what this university should be all about. Unfortunately, few will agree with you. Blame it on the absurd obsession with sports and the black hole on campus that is Mendoza. So long as the new buildings are attached to the stadium and have the ND logo somewhere, people will like it. It does not matter if the buildings are ugly, lacking in creativity, and poorly placed, the ND brand blinds people to any other thought.
    Our library and science buildings need renovations, O’Shag is a pit, and our student activity centers are worthy not of ND but of cheap community colleges. With all of its money ND still overcharges for tuition and offers crappy facilities to its students and faculty. So much for offering an “unsurpassed undergraduate education.” We are light years behind our peers. Only those stuck behind this incestuous ND environment would call this place exceptional.

  • Brandon

    “every effort should be made to improve, renovate and build in the heart of campus, centered on God Quad, which houses the very symbol of our University.”

    Not a very good statement. Those facilities have been renovated and improved. There’s no space for new buildings, doing so would ruin the beauty of the campus center that you claim to love.

    The Crossroads design reduces sprawl compared to building an entire new quad, which you seem to think is an essential element of the University layout. It kills a bunch of birds with one stone (hey, hey how about that longed-for basketball facility?)

    The campus still isn’t that big. Go visit your state university back home if you want to see big. It’s completely reasonable for the University to support these types of managed expansions. They do lag behind their peers in faculty space. I would rather not see the value of my expensive degree fall if the Dome can’t keep up with its peers. But you keep worrying bro.

    Manorite Class of 2010

  • Keb

    Nathaniel, Congratulations on a fine letter. I couldn’t have said it better and I won’t try. The “Campus Crossroads” project is indeed ill-conceived.