opinion   |   column

IU construction should focus on concrete benefits, not aesthetics

One aspect of life at IU that almost never changes is the presence of construction. IU-Bloomington has 12 construction projects currently underway or in planning.

Without a doubt, a lot of this construction is needed to keep the campus up to date and expand facilities to accommodate the growing student body. 

But as a student, sometimes I look at the newer buildings on campus and wonder if our tuition, fees and endowments are being spent efficiently.

IU’s mission as a University is to "create, disseminate, preserve and apply knowledge" through research and creative activity — not to churn out sleekly designed modern buildings such as the recently constructed Global and International Studies Building and the $14-million Conrad Prebys Career Services Center.

I am not saying these buildings do not serve academic functions. But I do wonder if they could have been built at a lower cost with a less aesthetically pleasing design. 

Many of IU’s construction and renovation projects are externally funded. That does make the cost for these buildings easier to accept. 

However, I think IU should focus more on the values stated in its mission statement rather than the creation of these buildings.

A $1-million renovation approved by the IU Board of Trustees last Friday will include a new intersection by the Indiana Memorial Union loading dock. A gate will block the loading dock and the corners will be renovated to match the gate.

In my opinion, the intersection is fine as is.

That being said, the cost of that project is dwarfed by that of the south end zone project by Memorial Stadium, which will house the IU Excellence Academy for student athletes.

This project is internally funded to the tune of $53 million. IU, like other universities in the United States, always seems prepared to pull out massive sums of money when it comes to student athletics.

There probably will be benefits brought by this project. But are they the most effective use of IU funding?

There are at least two great aspects of many IU construction projects that should not go without mentioning. Many improve accessibility for disabled, injured and elderly individuals. 

Additionally, many improve energy efficiency and lower the carbon footprint of IU facilities.  One of the ways IU is doing this is through Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, which is a certification given to buildings with designs that are more sustainable. IU has 10 of these buildings.    

Those benefits should be kept. IU should also consider building more facilities with solar power, like the IU Office of Sustainability's E-House, or other alternative energy infrastructure. 

Aesthetics and features with narrow benefits should take a back seat.

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