Construction distractions obscure future benefits

Students on the Twin Cities campuses might have recently begun to notice a somewhat annoying trend. On campus, an assortment of cars, bicycles, in-line skates, skateboards and pedestrians must not only avoid each other, but they must now also dodge in and out of the multitude of construction projects that dot our campus. From the addition and renovation of the Mechanical Engineering Building to Coffman Union to the new Institute of Molecular and Cellular Biology, our campus is undergoing a major face life. As we get closer to summer, even more projects will be occurring on campus, mainly Northrop Plaza and the Washington Avenue Bridge. Although the campus population will be greatly reduced, it will still cause headaches for those venturing out on campus this summer.
No one would deny that there is a need to renovate, refurbish and rebuild the campus. As we move into the next century, many of the buildings on the campus still seem to be operating in the distant past. A university is supposed to be on the cutting edge of ideas and technology, and this cannot be done with antiquated equipment and dilapidated buildings. The University must have facilities that are up-to-date and able to support new technology and ideas. The time and money spent now will undoubtedly benefit future generations of University students, faculty members and researchers.
But this sudden increase in construction has had many drawbacks. Although most timetables state that construction will be finished by 2002, it is unrealistic to expect that it will all be done on time. There are complications that will of course occur, either with budgeting or at the actual site. Students entering the University this year could very likely leave without being able to walk through the newly renovated Coffman Union or the new science labs at the molecular and cellular biology building. There is even the possibility that some students passing through the doors of the University will not see a construction-free campus.
One good thing to come out of the construction on Washington Avenue will be the removal of the fence that separates Coffman Union and Northrop. The unappealing brown fence was of course installed to prevent students from attempting to rush across the road when they thought that there was a break in the traffic. But it is a public eyesore that destroys the look of the mall and is an unattractive neighbor of the expensive new Coffman. It has been kept up much too long, and it will be nice to see it gone.
Balancing the needs of tomorrow with the realities of today is always hard, and the current construction situation is no different. While we do need a modern campus, the University must be aware that students might not feel they are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. As students are continually forced to take alternative paths, contend with the sounds of construction and relearn the locations of various offices, there are few signs that it is all coming to an end soon. The University, instead of rushing into so many construction projects at once, should have taken into account the current students who have to live with the construction, not just future students who will benefit from it.