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ISSUE 120 VOL 1 PUBLISHED 9/22/2006

Campus changes abound

By Andrea Horbinski
Opinion Editor

Friday, September 22, 2006

One of the best things about returning to campus in the fall is seeing what’s changed over the summer. But this year, Oles should probably ask what hasn’t changed rather than what has. Some changes are long overdue, some are downright odd, and others seem to call for withholding judgment. In any case, it seems the twenty-first century has finally come to St. Olaf.

The first thing one notices is the long-awaited wind turbine, parked in a field just behind Ytterboe Hall. It seems we’ve waited an eternity, and now we can put ourselves permanently one up on Carleton: they sell their green energy to Xcel, while we use ours directly. Though the sheer size of the turbine takes some getting used to, I can’t wait until it starts turning as well as blinking. Moreover, our power grid’s structure could allow us to erect another turbine and run the campus entirely on wind power. Given how long it took to get this first turbine up and running, we should probably start on that second one immediately.

The vaunted One Card is another positive development. Despite much grousing about old ID pictures being reused and the steep $25 replacement fee, the One Card will be excellent once it’s enabled as our building keycards. Adding our laundry money to the One Card will likewise be hugely convenient, especially since the present value on our laundry cards ought to roll over at the upgrade. In the best-case scenario, when the One Card is used for network and building access and more, it will contribute to a more secure, less scatter-brained campus.

On the other hand, the Bookstore’s addition of a backpack carrel outside its entrance gives me a chill every time I walk past. The carrel seems designed to create distrust, and it’s just puzzling. Was there a huge epidemic of shoplifting last year? If so, why didn’t we hear about it? Since leaving our bags outside probably won’t result in lower prices inside, it seems that we, the Bookstore’s customers, are being unfairly stigmatized as shoplifting threats to no real purpose.

The wireless networks inside the dorms are similarly illogical. On Sept. 5, Residence Life Director Pamela McDowell sent the student body an e-mail reading, “We strongly encourage you to use your wired (cabled) connection when you are in your residence hall room. The wired connection is more reliable, has fewer traffic restrictions, and can be much faster than the wireless connection.” Why put wireless in the dorms if we’re not supposed to use it? The money spent networking the dorms would have been better used upgrading the tortoise-like speed of the campus internet connection.

The renovations to Boe Chapel certainly belong in the “wait and see” category. Although the new organ should be a huge improvement, with its new cool color scheme and indirect lighting, as well as the absence of the pews, Boe certainly seems a lot less humane and a lot more industrial. Hopefully by the time the flags return Boe will feel like its old, welcoming self again.

The changes occurring as part of the construction of the new Science Center, and recovery from the hail storm, are also a mixed bag. Like Boe, the new World Language Center is still a work in progress which can be expected to improve with time. Still, immediate progress could be made by replacing the current, dismally dingy light fixtures with more modern pieces that actually illuminate. But unlike Flaten, the basement of the library isn’t perpetually sweltering. And unlike the Art Barn, there are no holes in the walls, so on balance the new combined language lab and video studio is an improvement.

Yet the “modular village” is about as awful as expected, and the mutilation of Old Main hill for the ring road is nothing less than a tragedy. Even student organizations not forced to move to the village have had to adjust. On the other hand, the hail’s breaking the stained-glass window in Steensland Hall allowed college staff to remove the unholy deposit of dead bugs which accumulated over the years. Hopefully when the new science center is completed these next few years of hardship will seem worth it. And hopefully we will work to ensure that our college’s “unity of the spirit,” which President Anderson ’74 discussed in his inaugural chapel talk on Monday, remains as vital a part of our future as it has been of our past.

Opinions Editor Andrea Horbinski is a senior from Marlton, N.J. She majors in Classics with concentrations in linguistics and in Japan studies.

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