With plans for the new dorm underway and completion slated for 2008, the administration once again takes attempts to integrate the south campus with the rest of the University community. Its last major attempt with the Law School and SSA is regarded as an overall failure. This time, the administration seems to have listened to student feedback and apparent mistakes from Max Palevsky in formulating their plans for the new dorm, which includes community bathrooms and centralized lounges. Student feedback and collaboration will be essential in order for the facility to be functional for its residents as well to be aesthetically similar to B-J. Undoubtedly, the plans for Max P. would not have came to fruition if students had more considerable involvement.
The new dorm must be as close to the Gothic tradition as possible: no modern takes on the style. Buildings like the University Press building and Kovler Gym at the Lab School are fine examples of recent Gothic buildings on campus. Also, a complete overhaul of the dining facilities mirroring Bartlett would help with dorm popularity.
Yet the new dorm is the first step in the University's goal of making the south campus an actual "destination" for the campus community. Undergraduates have little reason to venture south of the Midway unless they live or eat at B-J. The last time I was south of the Midway was when I ate dinner at B-J as a prospie: when it was closed down for health violations.
Our editor had fine suggestions on how the new dorm should function, hopefully some of which will be adopted ("How to property invade the South Side," 10/28/04). However, there is much more that can be done in the short term and long term to re-invent the south campus. Retail space is crucial for the student use of the south campus. The University should, with haste, expand retail opportunities on the south side. With the inclusion of new restaurants and stores, students will begin to move across the Midway and begin to make use of the south campus. If this can be achieved within a couple of years, it could help bolster popularity for the new dorm to both returning and incoming students without it being considered too far away from the shops and eateries of 55th and 57th Streets.
But in the long term the University must also make good use of their building plans to invigorate the south campus. Academic buildings that cater to both graduate and undergraduate students will bode well in attempts to lure students south. In order to keep them there for a while or even a whole day, the University should create a second Reynolds Club (named Hutchins Club, perhaps?) complete with dining facilities a la Hutch, study areas, group space, coffee shops, and a fitness center. With this and the planned arts expansion, this could ensure a vibrant community south of the Midway and a subsequent rebirth of the south campus.
Although we will never witness the finished product completely, at least for another 20 years, steps taken today will ensure that future generations of students will grow to use the south campus and that the no-man's land of the Midway between north and south campuses will merely become study space between classes.