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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

EDITORIAL: Don’t invest in a money pit

Published: September 18, 2009
Section: Front Page

Over the past few weeks, frequenters of Usdan and other campus dining facilities have encountered longer lines and larger crowds, in part due to the 122 additional bodies on campus this semester. Such inconveniences are to be expected on a campus whose enrollment is approaching spatial capacity. In the years to come, enrollment will further increase as part of the administration’s plan to boost revenue.

Though the university has begun developing the Justice Brandeis Semester program to alleviate the strain on buildings, requiring students to spend a semester away from campus will not magically fix facilities that are beyond repair.

Vice President for Campus Operations Mark Collins is rightly concerned with the state of residence halls but at a certain point, the university must recognize that for some buildings, renovation is an exercise in futility. Case in point: Charles River Apartments. Unlike Reitman in North Quad or Shapiro in Massell Quad or even Ziv, Charles River is not a fixer-upper. It is a tearer-downer.

Aside from the decrepit state of most Charles River kitchens and bathrooms and the mold that some students encountered during move-in, the concrete Soviet style construction does not lend itself to repairs. Installing an up to code sprinkler system would take Herculian effort to say nothing of the cost. Moreover, renovations to Charles River could not be done over the course of a summer or a summer and a semester, as has been done with first-year housing.

The university must stop deluding itself and prepare to shell out some serious cash on a new housing facility where Charles River now stands. Because of Charles River’s high capacity, there will be a housing crunch worse than that experienced during Ridgewood’s construction while new apartments are being built.

However, the same would be the case if the university chose a renovation project that would most likely be drawn out over the course of at least two years. As such, there will be strains on housing facilities regardless of whether the university chooses to renovate or start anew.

A fresh start with a new foundation, even though it might cause more problems in the short run, ensures that the university does not invest in buildings that are a money pit located in a death trap. Sometimes you have to throw the baby out with the bathwater. And in this metaphor, Charles River is the baby.