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I think we were all shocked when the College of William and Mary announced plans to transform 80% of campus accommodation and restaurants by 2032. For some of you, I’m sure that surprise was welcome. It’s no secret that many of our dorms are less than ideal. To be clear: I know that our school needs to be renovated. In fact, I like the new plan, overall. I want dining rooms with layouts that promote efficiency and food safety. I want to make sure that no other freshman has to suffer until September without air conditioning. And, as a passionate environmentalist (I once cried at Tribe Truck because I forgot to pack reusable cutlery), I’m glad to see the school taking energy efficiency and sustainability into account. long-term.
Even so, the sudden announcement left me angry, stressed and deceived. Like many students, I enrolled at the College in part because of its reputation as a quiet campus. The University of Virginia was originally my first choice, but I realized I wouldn’t be happy surrounded by the hustle and bustle of a big city. I was willing to deal with outdated buildings if it meant I could live somewhere beautiful and quiet. It was a compromise I was prepared for. So I was a bit dismayed to learn that the rest of my college experience would be dominated by wrecking balls, roped alleys, and more incessant, endless beeping than I thought. ultimately complete with the completion of the Art Center.
This is where I take issue with the renovation: current students made a commitment to the College before they were told of the significant disruption they would face.
To be fair, I’m a little biased. As a neurodivergent student, two of my least favorite things are (a) unexpected changes and (b) loud noises. My brain is not made to be surrounded by constructions. I actually have ADA housing for a single dorm partly because my sensory hypersensitivity makes it almost impossible to sleep when someone else is in the room. Even so, I really don’t think my concerns are exclusive to neurodivergence. I can’t be alone when I say I don’t want to spend college surrounded by the sweet serenade of jackhammers.
I am fortunate to live in Hardy Hall, known by word of mouth as an “accessibility dorm,” which means I will not be kicked out of my ADA housing assignment. But I am concerned about the impact the project will have on other students with accommodations. Old Dominion Hall, home to nearly 50 single rooms, is among the first set of buildings to be renovated. Where will these students live until the renovations are complete? Additionally, Ludwell Apartments will be released from contract in Phase 2, apparently without plans to build new apartment-style dormitories. What about students who need extra space to accommodate a service animal or students with severe allergies who need access to a non-shared kitchen?
To make matters worse, the finished project will not even increase accommodation or dining capacity: the facilities may be nicer, but they won’t be bigger. The College says this new plan will “support the integration of living and learning,” ignoring the fact that students are already being driven off campus by lack of places. Have we somehow forgotten the disaster that was housing registration 2022-23? Our school is already overcrowded and apartments in Williamsburg are not cheap. As rental rates increase, upper class men may be pushed further and further into the suburbs. This hardly seems in line with the “live and learn” philosophy.
I understand that the school tries to accommodate logistical issues by staggering the plan in phases, but any project of this magnitude is bound to have unforeseen delays. Even the planned temporary reductions in accommodation/restaurant capacity could cause problems for students. For example, the Marketplace restaurants will be demolished in Phase 1. Until the center of campus is rebuilt in Phase 2, all undergraduate students living in the graduate complex – of which there there are quite a few – will have a 20 minute walk to the nearest restaurant. . This is a good time to remind you that sophomores are not allowed to have cars on campus.
I know that many of these renovations are necessary. Our dining staff must have spaces where they can safely prepare meals. Students need alternating current. But it was dishonest of the school to drop these plans on the students so suddenly. It wouldn’t be a problem if students were aware of these major changes before deciding to enroll, but many of us chose the College because we expected a quiet, idyllic college experience. It feels like a bait and switch to unexpectedly force current students to endure years of construction.
Fortunately, the administration has several options to remedy their oversight. By pushing the start date to 2026, every student on campus can learn about the project before committing to the College. Alternatively, the college could extend its renovation schedule to reduce the number of facilities under construction at any given time, thereby reducing pressure on students. Or, at the very least, students might have a more democratic opportunity to voice our concerns. After all, this campus is our home. I think we deserve our say in its future. You can send a petition to our administration on this link: https://www.change.org/delay-WM-demolition
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