University shifts focus on Central

Plans for New Campus have been put on hold due to the bad economy, and the University is instead focusing on ways to improve Central Campus living for the next 15 to 20 years, officials confirmed Wednesday night.

Members of Central Campus Council aired complaints and offered suggestions to a consulting firm hired by the University at a meeting Wednesday. The discussion was intended to brainstorm ways to make Central more liveable.

"What do you need? What do you all want in order to create a vibrant living community here?" said consultant Jane Wright, who was hired by the University to gather input on ways to improve Central.

Three members of Wright's staff took detailed notes and asked questions during the nearly hour-and-a-half discussion.

Planning for New Campus was "intended to move forward a lot quicker than it has moved forward," said Gary Thompson, director of facilities, planning and operations for Residence Life and Housing Services.

Suggestions ranged from better dining options to more efficient forms of transportation. Central Campus Council President Tomas Moreno, a senior, said he wants to see more cultural amenities and community spaces on Central.

"We have no venue to do programming," he said, noting that the Devil's Den is regularly reserved for members of the football team and other athletes. "If you go to any place on East or West, you have commons rooms."

Adding more social spaces to Central was another item that students raised. Central Campus Council member Appu Kuruvilla, a junior, said most students travel to East and West campuses to socialize.

"'Oh I want to come to Central'-nobody has ever said that in their lives," he said. "With so many people here turning 21, It would be really nice to have a late-night bar here."

Central Campus Council member Kristen Manderscheid, a junior, said she would like to see more study spaces on Central, adding that she often has to wait out in the cold late at night to come back from studying on West.

Transportation was another area of concern raised at the meeting. Council members said buses do not always run on time and they are overly crowded during peak class times.

"The time I waste going to West.... I spend 40 minutes at the gym and 20 minutes in transit," said Central Campus Council Secretary Doug Helferich, a junior.

A car nearly becomes a necessity when students move to Central, Moreno added. But having accessible parking is one advantage to living on Central, Helferich said.

Other students agreed that the main draw of Central is that it provides students with more living independence than West.

"The independence is a double-edged sword, because you're independent, but sometimes you're on an island," Helferich said.

Safety concerns were also discussed, and students said they would like to see more lighting on Central. Central Campus Council Vice President Christine Kwon, a senior, noted break-ins at Central apartments last Friday in which sliding patio doors were reportedly forced open.

Thompson said adjustments were being made to sliding doors to ensure that similar burglaries would not happen again.

The University is hoping to begin making improvements for Fall 2010, Thompson said. Although he did not mention any specific plans for Central, he said any improvements would have to mesh with future plans for New Campus. Thompson added that he wanted to receive more student input in the future.

"This whole thing will be as transparent as it can be," he said.


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