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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Things fall apart

Published: March 12, 2010
Section: Opinions

Have you seen the new Mandel Center for the Humanities? Towering above Rabb Academic Quad, the new building stands out, its clean, red brick and shining glass windows contrasting sharply with the dreary concrete slabs at its rear.

When complete, the new building will join an array of stand-alone edifices of differing architectural style that come together to make up the Brandeis campus.

Unfortunately, Brandeis administrators have largely ignored many of the other buildings on campus, allowing ceilings to collapse and water stains to linger. They rely on the idea that new building projects–not to mention stellar academics–will sell students on a Brandeis education.

This notion has persisted, but with rising budget deficits, Brandeis administrators can no longer ignore the facilities already here. Some will argue that priority must be given to saving academics in this financial crisis. Still, in order to continue to attract the students who will pay this institution’s bills without compromising admissions standards, Brandeis must prioritize funding the upkeep of all buildings on campus.

Prospective students who visit Brandeis arrive at a school where our pool is closed indefinitely, our cafeterias are badly in need of a paint job and our roads are ridden with potholes. Then, they visit classrooms with holes in the ceilings and writing on the backs of the seats. The overall impression is of a school that does not attempt to present itself well.

Other schools capitalize on aesthetics, gaining free publicity in The Princeton Review’s annual “Top 10 most beautiful campuses” list. In 2008, Sweet Briar College in Sweet Briar, Virginia, was listed as the most beautiful, followed closely by Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey, and Pepperdine University in Malibu, California.

While trying to compete with these three schools would prove challenging (Boston is not Malibu), the next three colleges on the list—Wellesley College in Wellesley, Massachusetts, Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley, Massachusetts, and Wagner College on Staten Island in New York—all suffer from the same winter weather and the inevitable clean-up costs that result.

Every current student knows that the week before Brandeis’s spring open house, facilities cleans the campus from top to bottom, strategically placing bright, spring flowers on pathways and clearing debris and garbage from the ground. While welcome, this effort only addresses the campus’s external appearance and ignores visitors who arrive at other times during the year.

The focus of Brandeis administrators ought to be to identify and correct all building maintenance issues year-round; after all, our reputation and financial viability are at stake.