This Wednesday, Evanston’s Preservation Commission unanimously voted not to support Northwestern’s construction of a new visitors center.
Though Evanston residents are famously picky when it comes to approving new projects, I fully support their decision.
Granted, the City Council can still allow for Northwestern to build its visitors center in their vote on the matter tomorrow. But the Preservation Commission’s vote will likely influence the Council’s decision on whether they approve the building.
I see absolutely no reason why Northwestern needs a “visitors center.” What is a “visitors center” anyway? A couple museums or touristic towns have them. I haven’t heard of universities with one until now.
Architecturally, the new center is wholly uninteresting- it is constructed in the typical “box-on-stilts” style so popular in our times. Functionally, I have no idea what this building will bring to current Northwestern students- it is meant largely for prospective students anyways. And it imposes itself on a significant part of South Beach’s wilder, more natural areas.
Of course, the administration likely has a long list of allegedly important reasons we are building such a useless structure, but I am not buying it.
I did not choose to go this university because I was impressed by some Potemkin-Village-on-the-Lake which catered to my every need. Like most students, I had better reasons: academics, a semi-urban campus close to Chicago, and a good party scene.
I might have been a little wrong about the party scene, but I don’t regret the decision.
I think it would be much more productive for the University to spend this money elsewhere- building a new student center, increasing lower-level staff’s wages, or Christ! just doing nothing with it.
How hard can that be? All these fancy facilities are part of the reason why tuition rises by so much money every year. Of course, people can argue that it is “essential” that we have a Visitor’s Center or even a Sailing Center (not kidding about the last one.)
But ultimately I suspect many know these projects are rather silly and do not bring us much in any real manner.
They do bring the administration benefits of course- more superfluous administrative jobs, more reasons to hike tuition, more unexciting architecture around campus.
And they won’t stop- Morton Schapiro has already said he expects $100,000 tuition a year by 2025 (not that he has much to worry about).
Maybe some Northwestern students can afford these kinds of number games, but they come at a real cost: ever-increasing student debt. But that is, admittedly, an entire discussion in its own right.
So I urge any Evanstonians to stop this project from taking place at the City Council meeting tomorrow. Frivolous spending like this, especially in such tough economic times, should be avoided- now and in the future.
photo- Northwestern University