By Katie Hiegel | Contributor
Within the past few years, Taylor's campus has seen the addition of many magnificent buildings and renovations, from the Memorial Prayer Chapel and the Euler Science Complex to the luxurious LaRita Boren Campus Center. These changes are as costly as they are exciting-there's no such thing as a free lunch, no matter how many Dining Dollars your meal plan incorporates-and the university has sought to cut costs elsewhere. I applaud these measures, since I think fiscal responsibility and sustainability should be top priorities for anyone, especially a pricey college that many people already can't afford. True, rumor says there are planned renovations coming for Bergwall, but many dorms still need improvement.
But I wonder whether students' interests could better be served by investing more in the upgrading and upkeep of the residence halls. It's common knowledge on campus the plumbing system in Gerig leaves something to be desired; Wengatz, Olson and English-three of the biggest dorms-lack air conditioning; and only Bergwall, Breuninger and Samuel Morris have elevators. Some bathrooms in English require constant maintenance intervention, and dorm appliances such as vacuums are sorely outdated.
I live in English Hall, and until fall comes, it's hot in my dorm. Even showering and guzzling water brings little relief on the worst days. It's hard to sleep, and don't get me started on what move-in day is like when you have to carry your stuff up three flights of stairs in a building without air conditioning and an elevator.
Lest you think I'm simply another embittered English Hall resident, let me explain why these discrepancies affect more than just convenience. Last year, when I still lived on Third Center English, a wingmate with bad seasonal allergies developed breathing problems within the first month of school. It made me realize English isn't exactly allergy-friendly: in hot weather, everyone has their windows open and fans blowing, so it's easy for allergens to circulate throughout the dorm. True, I can't claim with any certainty this student wouldn't have had breathing issues regardless, but I do feel the lack of air conditioning didn't exactly help. She ended up staying over at a friend's apartment for a few nights to recuperate, then got an inhaler and, so far as I know, ended up being fine. But as any asthma-sufferer can attest, feeling unable to breathe is no joke and I wish she could have been spared the considerable discomfort and inconvenience.
Another English resident, on crutches for months due to a broken foot, found the lack of an elevator a serious hardship because she lived on the third floor. She had to spend a lot of her time in the lobby. Getting to the cellar to do laundry by herself was impossible, so she had to add her clothes to other women's loads. Although she told me everyone was very supportive and helpful, she still wished it could have been easier.
Adding things like air conditioning and elevators to three dorms isn't a cheap or simple task. And I can see why Taylor may be more interested in additions that affect all of campus: the Campus Center, Euler and the Memorial Prayer Chapel are open to everyone, and they're tangible destinations for prospective students to visit. Making residence halls cushier isn't as eye-catching.
Here's the thing, though: the dorms are where we sleep, study, hang out and generally spend a large percentage-if not the majority-of our time. Visitors may be wowed by the state-of-the-art features in Euler, but future students aren't going to live there. And parents and prospectives do (and should) care about what happens when they commit to Taylor. Students get put into English or Gerig, which may be their second- or third-choice dorms. Personally, I love English, and I like that there's some variation among dorms. Sometimes, though, I wish people didn't have to choose between the modern advantages of Breu and the relative discomfort of English or Olson.
New buildings are incredibly nice, impressive and useful. But sometimes I don't really care about having a brand-new campus center; I'd have been happy enough to keep the old student union if it meant my dorm and I could have a better day-to-day living experience.