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Beautification plans lack unification

By Ben SuazoStaff Writer

I was sitting in a study lounge of one of Hofstra’s towers, enjoying the view of the world below, when I began to ponder why this university tends to be such a disappointment to so many of its students. It’s not that Hofstra does a poor job exciting prospective students about coming here. Who can forget the green envelope that told of your acceptance, or the talented and smiling PRIDE Guides and admissions counselors who said you’d fit right in? It all builds up, and builds up, and then…drops. Somewhere between getting into this school and actually being a part of it, Hofstra drops the ball and fails to keep students excited.

I wouldn’t dare try to answer why Hofstra is full of so much cynicism toward its self-image in a small newspaper column. That answer would require a full-blown scientific report. But from where I sat, staring down at the paths between the four north-most towers, something struck me.

What I saw was a beautiful plan for tree-lined walkways, and then I saw a weirdly placed, widened staircase between Vander Poel and Enterprise leading into…nothing. Why on earth should a wide staircase lead to an asphalt road instead of a wide pedestrian area? Or a pavilion. Some place to just throw down your backpack and hang out.

Right now, anyone who frequents Dutch Treats can see the results of a “North Campus Beautification” project that will replace the old concrete ice rink with a grass square, all in the good name of helping residents actually feel comfortable on the side of campus where they have to live. The logic behind it is great, but in the end, it will just be another peripheral patch of grass where students chat between grabbing a bite to eat. The residential side will still feel like the place to go to sleep and park your car, not much else.

What we could really use is a place to be, an appropriate space to sit outdoors and study without interrupting the natural comfort of Hofstra’s arboretum. Our community is so much less happy than it could be, because, outside of a few residence halls’ courtyards, there is no convenient, central place to just socialize outdoors on North Campus. The addition of a large, welcoming space could go a long way in improving campus morale.

Just think—a walk back from class would no longer mean robotically following the most direct path to home. Instead, it would mean bumping into a friend and then forgetting you were going to your room, because suddenly you’re in a large circle of your best buddies, and you’re all outside and happy, and you never even had to leave campus to achieve that. On weekends, you could look down from the towers, spot someone you know, and go downstairs to meet them. The residential side could actually come alive.

Maybe the project in front of Hofstra USA is the right idea, but the current project is much too small and much too close to a road to feel human. Since Hofstra already has more than its fair share of roads, I would love to see a road or a parking lot torn up for the benefit of a socially oriented space rather than one more plain grass quadrangle.

It makes sense that a residential campus built on top of an airport will always have to fight the tendency toward cars and concrete to create a more livable, human space. But to fight that fight would be an investment worth making, because it would benefit all residential students who have ever complained that there is nowhere to go on campus on weekends. While I appreciate a beautification project, it will take more than a tiny square to lift people’s spirits around here. It will take a large square, plants and a plan with students’ happiness in mind.

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