Beautiful U gives more than nice view

Friday, Oct. 23 marks another occurrence of the annual Beautiful U campus improvement event at the University. Several heritage markers will be installed at locations such as Northrop Mall and the West Bank to commemorate historically significant sites on campus. In addition, there will be a River Road cleanup walk and signs will be placed to identify the “Gopher Way,” the system of tunnels and skyways that connects many buildings on campus. The goal of this day is to improve the appearance of campus, raise awareness of our facilities and increase pride in the University. These are worthy goals, and the Beautiful U campaign accomplishes them. Indeed, it provides more benefits than may be visible at first glance.
Beautiful U day is about taking pride in the way people view our campus. Some in our community may take the opinion that improving the appearance of campus, in addition to being a waste of time, is certainly a waste of money. These assessments are wrong. The appearance of our campus matters. By taking the effort to improve our learning environment, the University demonstrates that it values itself. In the same way that homeowners improve their yards, the University shows that it is a quality institution by undertaking improvements.
Through this commitment to itself, the University implicitly demands respect from the community around it. This combats what sociologists call the “broken window theory.” When a neighborhood fails to repair broken windows it tells people that appearance is not a priority. Broken windows are followed by graffiti, which may be followed by a failure to clean up garbage. Pretty soon criminals move into the neighborhood and people wonder how this could have happened. Certainly a situation like this is not imminent in the University community, but it illustrates the value of looking out for the little things. Beautiful U day does not only combat negative attitudes, it fosters a positive ethic of respect and pride in the University.
Participation in Beautiful U day is a way for students to show they care about the University. This is not a “senseless act of beauty,” but is instead a willful act of improvement. Taking part in the cleanup of the University provides a tangible benefit to those who participate. They see their University, the place where they spend the majority of their time during the school year, getting better right before their eyes. People like to talk about apathy, but this is an opportunity to take part and get involved. Beautiful U provides a spectacular opportunity for people concerned about the University to get together with others who share their interests. It is also money well invested by the administration by making our campus more attractive to potential alumni donors and to those of us who are here everyday.