Dan’s Master Plan: A Campus Under Construction

At two separate times this past Thursday President Fogel met with local press, members of the student body, and Vermont residents to discuss the fate of the university under a new “campus master plan” which is currently in development. Speakers included Fogel himself, along with representatives from Campus Planning Services, Hargreaves Associates of New York, Cambridge and San Francisco, and Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston. UVM alum Meghan Mann and master of landscape architecture Glen Allen are two members of the current project who provided copious information and listened to comments and suggestions.

While the title “campus master plan” may sound somewhat imposing, the point of the meeting was hardly to declare a manifesto, but rather to discuss with members of the UVM community what direction we would like the University to head in the next decade. For those who are unfamiliar with the subject, the master plan is a perpetual directive for school based progress, last updated in 1997 and available online at www.uvm.edu/~plan/masterplan/contents.html.

Beginning with a speech from President Fogel, who was clearly enthusiastic about this period of change, orator’s unveiled their goals in shaping the future of the school. Stressing cohesiveness with the current red-brick rustic style, they spoke about the noticeable, and not-so-noticeable additions being made to the campus in the near future, more specifically the University Commons. This complex will allow a consolidation of student life by providing offices for clubs and organizations, along with conference rooms, a dining hall, the bookstore and other retail stores, and even a new theater.

The building will provide a center of student activity as well as a greatly needed warm passage to the library, while preserving the architectural continuity of the campus. You may have noticed the huge pile of debris, formerly the home to a population of trailers housing programs such as Military Studies. That space is now the site of what will soon be the University Heights Student Residential Learning Complex, the first new residence hall to be built at UVM since 1970.

The two structures will hold a total of eight-hundred students in varying room types including singles, doubles, lofts and suites. These lavish apartments have private or semi-private bathrooms, sheetrock walls and air conditioning for those hot and humid Vermont summer days. The buildings closest to the gym will house students interested in the environment, while those closest to the Living and Learning Center will hold the Honors College.

These buildings will help to relocate the bulk of the student body to an area closer to classes and downtown Burlington as well as accommodate a growing student population. As if that’s not enough the site will include some environmental projects such as a stormwater treatment, low maintenance landscaping, and a vertical windmill; offering a fa?¤ade that compliments the Universities spirit.

The rendering of this most recent update is unique in that we are at a pivotal juncture in our schools evolution as we move into the 21’st century. In president Fogels own words “The ground that is ours to seize is lofty: The University of Vermont is positioned to establish itself as an internationally distinguished research university that offers undergraduates the human scale, flexibility, and responsiveness of a liberal arts college. The hallmark of all our endeavors must be quality-in our academic programs, in the student experience inside and outside the classroom, and in research and scholarship.” Maintaining excellence means acting swiftly and boldly, planning for the future as opposed to making reactionary accommodations.

As a community we must take steps to improve the weak aspects of our university while preserving those that make our school so unique and desirable: small classes, dedicated teachers, a thriving social atmosphere, and a student body unparalleled by most state universities. The construction projects visible across campus will help to remedy some of the schools weaknesses, such as the abundance of asphalt across campus, a result of crowded surface parking lots, along with some substandard buildings and a need to strengthen the use of open space as an aesthetic bonus. We have a wonderful chance to steer our University in a positive direction, and the first step towards achieving our goals is recognizing this opportunity.

As president Fogel said in his ’03 “President’s 10 Year Vision” speech, “…(the vision’s) plausibility rests on our recognizing the strategic moment, the tipping point at which we now stand, and acting boldly to do what must be done if we are not to fall back, but to move upward-our recognition and our commitment to action being the absolutely essential and enabling premise of this vision.”