The Arizona Desert Lamp

The end of Paradise City?

Posted in Campus by Evan Lisull on 18 February 2009

UA MallOver at her blog, Laura Donovan decries the un-greening of the Mall, citing the power of aesthetics in wooing future students:

It may be a wild assumption to say that some students will decide against going to the UA due to the lack of even artificial greenery, but it’s very possible that someone will be turned off by the changing priorities of the UA. Disagree if you will. I agree that teachers are more important than aesthetics, but it’s of more importance than most people realize.

Might I propose the “Arizona Green Preservation Society?” Anyways, we should point out that the school has survived, and in fact grown in size, without what might be considered a functional mall. From the heady days of 2002:

For the first time in her college career, Veronique Bredas experienced the UA Mall she saw in her viewbook, after student union construction workers moved a fence off the Mall last week.

This fall will be the first time students can use the whole Mall after two years of it being partially closed off for one construction project after another.

. . .

Fences went up in the middle of the Mall when construction of the Integrated Learning Center began in Aug. 1999. Right after the ILC fence was removed in July 2001, a new fence was erected for student union construction.

Recruiting, I think, will be relatively unharmed by an ugly mall. Even with current efforts, the Mall’s grass usually browns over by November, and lasts until mid-March or so – the period of time in which most prospective students visit.

It’s easy to dismiss this idea out of hand, but that ignores the fact that aesthetics really do matter. Yet they, too, are benefits; benefits that come with a cost that must be considered. I would like to offer a counter-example to Laura’s case of the mall. One of the more striking natural settings on campus is a pathway with densely packed orange trees on both sides, just south of Slonaker Hall and between Gila and Maricopa Halls. During the day, the effect is that of a naturally formed arcade, providing a cool respite from the sun’s glare. At night, however, the place is quite foreboding, among the darkest places on an already dark campus.

Now, suppose a review of crime statistics found a higher-than-average amount of sexual assaults by this wooded path (which would not be entirely surprising, given the darkness and the close proximity to an all-girls dorm). Would the school be justified in clearing the trees, for all of their daytime merits, in the never-ending quest to improve safety? If so, at what point do the functional demands of the university override aesthetic concerns?

Let me offer a second example. As part of a recruitment program for scholarship students, the Honors College charters (or, at least, once chartered) buses to take visiting students out to see various landmarks around campus — Kitts Peak, Lazy K Ranch, and so on. Such trips certainly played a role in convincing talented students to come to the UA; but commissioning charter buses for field trips for pre-freshmen is awfully ostentatious when jobs are being shed. Should this program be ended, or at least have its budget reduced? (As a clarifying note, I’m somewhat sure that much of this money comes from non-state sources. For the question, though, assume that it is.)

There are no easy answers to such questions. Ideally, you want to preserve — perhaps, redefine — the aesthetics, while achieving administrative goals. You could cut every other tree, rather than destroying the whole patch; you could use school buses and go to Mount Lemmon instead.

Getting back to the Mall, the aspect of it that is as exciting as the green grass is the activity on the grass — the various tents and club tables; the frisbee games and pickup football matches; Brother Jed and the Hare Krishnas. Unfortunately, the Mall is not teeming with activity as often as it should be —  there are regulatory reasons for this, and we’ll hopefully explain what those are (and how, by ending them, we can hopefully move towards a better mall) by next week.

The Wildcat‘s Nickolas Seibel also proposes saving the Mall, but with a different twist – utilizing student volunteers to provide the labor. The volunteer idea sounds reasonable, but my suspicion is that the cost primarily comes from the sod and water maintenance itself; in other words, this seems to be an issue of material resources, not of manpower. I’m more than willing to be proven wrong on this count, if anyone from Facilities Management is out there.

There’s also the issue of participation:

“There are definitely some creative things we can do,” [Associate Director of Facilities Management Chris] Kopach said – but then he tempered things by saying that some of their efforts in working with student groups in the past hadn’t fared so well, mainly due to lack of commitment.

In fact, it was the Wildcat itself that toyed with enlisting student labor to pass out papers in exchange for ad space just a year or two ago. The plan seemed to have promise, but quickly fizzled out; in all likelihood, for the same reasons that Kopach cites.

But wait a minute, what’s that shirt you’re wearing . . .

Nick Seibel, Star

It’s a trap!

Enjoy the title allusion here. The chorus, incidentally, works well as a theme song for the UA – perhaps the band could turn this into an unofficial theme song?


4 Responses

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  1. Laura Donovan said, on 18 February 2009 at 4:36 pm

    Great points. You’re right-the mall isn’t ultimately going to make or break someone’s decision about school, but aesthetics are important. It can be really depressing to walk across campus with absolutely no green in sight. But Arizona does offer a unique beauty. As for the orange tree area-Many people don’t even know that exists.

    The bussing of honors students seems a little extreme. The UA seems to really cater to Honors students, and this makes sense, but it’s unnecessary to fund field trips for all prospective Honors College students, half of which probably won’t even attend the university.

    The Red Star t-shirt would be less noticeable if he didn’t change photographs every week. Very nice observation.

  2. mark woodhams said, on 19 February 2009 at 2:14 pm

    The Wildcat did more than toy with the idea of student groups hawking Wildcats. Last year some students from the Women’s Resource Center undertook to hand them out for a week or so in exchange for ads, and this year a fraternity has done it, but for $$$. Money may be a better motivator than ads. Alas, the Wildcat is in short supply of both. Hey, why don’t the lads at DesertLamp hand them out in exchange for…well, there must be something you want! Better yet, rather than tap into the student fee and sip at the welfare trough, the Wildcat could ask ASUA senators to hand out papers for *free.*

  3. Evan Lisull said, on 19 February 2009 at 2:23 pm

    So the program is still in force? My apologies; I thought that the program had simply been phased out when the ads for it disappeared.

    And yes, it would be quite priceless to walk across the Mall and see the esteemed Senate, in Pulitzer-era newsie outfits, crying out, “Get your paper! Paper here! Shelton raising tuition! Pap-ER!”

  4. […] smart guys. They do a bunch of great work, especially lately, acting as the watchdog of campus affairs – ASUA, the looming budget cuts in Arizona, and everything related. I often don’t […]

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