Monday, November 29, 2004

VU blog.

Somehow or other, Vanderbilt has my e-mail address, and I get monthly bulletins from the alumni office. The lead story in today’s bulletin was this following:

“The birth of a residential colleges system at Vanderbilt is one step closer to becoming a reality, with active planning under way for proposed groundbreaking in 2005 for the first phase, Freshman Commons, located on the Peabody campus. As early as the fall of 2008, for the first time in the history of Vanderbilt, the entire freshman class will live together. New construction will add five new residence halls to the five existing dormitories at Peabody to form a community of 10 houses. A new dining facility will replace the current Hill Center and provide additional spaces for social and academic programming.”

My first reaction: No! Vanderbilt needs to stay exactly as it was in 1983. This is an irrational reaction on many levels, and it faded after a minute or two, but I still had to wonder about this bit of news. No one at Vanderbilt asked me about these plans, but then again I have nothing to do with policymaking there, and have contributed a scant zero dollars to its greater glory over the years since graduation. (If I ever give money to a university, it’s going to be to Fisk anyway, which needs money in a way that Vanderbilt does not.)

Peabody, once a teacher’s college of some renown, was absorbed into Vanderbilt dominion in 1979, and soon became a place for the university to house undergraduates, particularly sophomores. I spent my sophomore year in Peabody’s East Hall, which dated from around World War I and had few modern amenities, like push-button phones or girls living in the same building.

Where are those new dorms going to go? I hope nowhere that barges in on Peabody’s sweeping main lawn, a fine open space of the collegiate sort, best used for playing frisbee or sitting around pretending to study.

And what about Branscomb Quadrangle? It’s on the Vanderbilt campus proper, right in the thick of things, as opposed to the more remote Peabody. In my day, half the freshman class (roughly speaking) lived there in double rooms, and the other half lived in singles at a different quadrangle whom name I can’t remember. Upper classmen will occupy Branscomb? It doesn’t seem right somehow.

Finally, Hill Center. Academic modernism at its blandest, but I ate some memorable grilled cheese sandwiches and hamburgers there. The new place may serve these things, but more likely Wendy’s or Krispy Kreme or some other fast food enterprise will open pods in the new building. Bad idea. Those are place students should have to leave campus to enjoy.


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