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Town Hall addresses on campus construction

| Tuesday, October 7, 2014

At Monday’s fall 2014 town hall meeting, University President Fr. John Jenkins congratulated staff and faculty on glowing reaccreditation feedback and highlighted the mission of the recently announced Keough School of Global Affairs, while Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves asked for patience in the face of the inconveniences the Campus Crossroads project will soon bring to campus.

“I want to start out just by reminding you of why we’re doing this, because there seems to be a lot of confusion,” Affleck-Graves said. “LaFortune [Student Center] is just not big enough to accommodate all the things we need for students.”

After analyzing where students spend the majority of their time, it became apparent that “that area around the stadium is the real heart of our academic enterprise, and around that we have our residential zone,” Affleck-Graves said.

“Most schools have come to this conclusion, and taken down the stadium and moved it off campus — but I wasn’t brave enough to suggest that,” Affleck-Graves said. “So why don’t we put [the student center] next to the stadium?”

Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves speaks at the fall town hall meeting in Washington Hall on Monday.Caroline Genco | The Observer
Executive Vice President John Affleck-Graves speaks at the fall town hall meeting in Washington Hall on Monday.

Affleck-Graves summarized the different facilities that will be housed in the new setup, emphasizing their potential to further increase the University’s academic mission and overall excellence. But until they’re completed, construction will restrict access to that area of campus.

“For three years, we’re going to have a very tough, tough construction zone on the south side of campus, and it’s going to impact all of us,” Affleck-Graves said. “We will start work on the east and the west building — the student center and the anthropology building, immediately after the Louisville game this year.

“Unfortunately, we have to take the trees down for the construction project, but we can save over 100 of them, so we will move them to places where we have lost trees in storms this past summer and last winter.”

Affleck-Graves showed a diagram with temporary fences immediately surrounding the southern half of the stadium.

“We’re going to put up a temporary fence so that we can do some tree removal and shoring up of the foundation,” he said. “This is going to be fairly restrictive. And then, unfortunately, after the Louisville game it’s going to get even worse.”

Affleck-Graves showed another diagram, in which a much larger fenced-off area stretched from the Joyce Center to Mendoza.

“We’ll have [this situation] for three years,” Affleck-Graves said. “… This will be permanently fenced off. If you want to go north on campus, you can walk through Mendoza [College of Business], or DeBartolo [Hall]. … There won’t be any pathways outside on that side. The same thing on [the Joyce side] … [although] you can see we have constructed a walkway.

“I really apologize … but there is nothing we can do.”

Jenkins concluded the meeting by commenting on the implications of the plans Affleck-Graves discussed.

“I want to acknowledge … [that] all these things are inconvenient for you, and I know that,” Jenkins said. “It is disruptive, … [but] keep in mind: this is what a university looks like when it’s growing, when it’s active, when it’s vibrant. A university that just stays the same is sort of dying.”

“I really do think people will look back and think, ‘[this] was a really important moment in Notre Dame history,’” he said.

Affleck-Graves said the University will re-stripe the D Bulla Lot, due to numerous complaints about small parking spaces. In response to questions from the audience, he also confirmed that after 2018, current on-campus graduate residences will close, and in the near future an on-campus parking structure seems unlikely due to the cost of construction and maintenance.

Jenkins, who opened the meeting, praised the staff, faculty and students of Notre Dame for a reaccreditation report “that was uniformly, enthusiastically positive.”

While “there was really no question that the University would be reaccredited, it couldn’t have been better,” Jenkins said.

Quoting the report, which was compiled by the Higher Learning Commission, Jenkins said, “Simply walking on campus at Notre Dame, one witnesses the goodwill extended to friends and strangers alike. A pervasive decency and generalized kindness lives on this campus … undergrads recognize their privileged place.”

After briefly mentioning the University’s commitment to maximizing financial efficiency, Jenkins focused on the mission of the recently-announced Keough School of Global Affairs.

“What this school will focus on is not simply what international schools regularly focus on, state-to-state relationships … but really go beyond that, to look at a holistic picture of peoples’ lives,” Jenkins said. “We will be able to focus on, say, religion, [which] plays such an important current role in the world.”

“Our lives aren’t simply about politics and economics, but about religion, spirituality,” he said. “… What we hope to do in this school is bring that broader picture … [from] conflicts, civil wars, peace-building, means to combat crushing poverty … [to] dealing with the effects of global warming.”

Jenkins concluded his portion of the town hall meeting by discussing staff diversity and inclusion, and encouraging any staff or faculty to report issues of misconduct.

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