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What to do with Alter Hall?

By Taylor Fulkerson
On February 2, 2012

We're about to see a major change on campus — the replacement of Alter Hall, but it's more than just an aesthetic shift we need. Alter's traffic jams are unavoidable

and it's somewhat uninviting. The administration is already

in the planning process for a new building, but based on

the version of Alter we have now, and some of our recent

additions to campus, I feel that we need to engage the

interests of the students as well as the interests of the University as a whole in this change. Our buildings do not define us, but they do reflect certain values we hold.

I say this because I feel like we've already lost ground in the recently opened Musketeer Mezzanine. The new office space is a stark contrast to the first floor of Alter, which is not necessarily a bad thing. However, I don't feel the new offices reflect who we are as a Xavier community. When I declared my major last semester in Alter, I sat down and talked with a secretary who briefly explained what I needed to do to make it happen. The new office is not nearly as inviting nor open to that form of discussion and explanation.

Most people may find this point trifling; I find it to be important. Declaring a major is paperwork. Paperwork should be the least important aspect of an undergraduate education, yet at Xavier, even a menial process was

a human, face-to-face interaction. The new offices seem to preclude the possibility of dialogue in favor of getting students in and out. A desk separates the personnel

from the students. The office is coordinated for assessing the problem, fixing it with a computer station or a brief explanation and processing students. The primary goal is efficiency, not conversation. Now to turn our eyes from

past to future — what will the new Alter be? Are we going to

see a similar move for the efficient glamour of Anywhere

University, or will we strive to uphold the Jesuit values we

care about at Xavier? Academics are on the other end of the spectrum from office space and paperwork. The most important things we do as undergrads should occur in Alter and the building that replaces it. Our classroom time and interactions with faculty and ideas through dialogue and those heavier conversations should hold value over

almost all, if not all, other activities we participate in as students. The faculty has been given the opportunity to meet with the firm designing the new structure several times. I cannot speak for all of them, but several have indicated that a space of dialogue and interaction would be highly favored over the more "efficient" in-and-out model. They want a place where they can comfortably talk to students and engage them about academics and more outside of class, not long hallways that just manage the masses of students. Plausibly, this new building would

be the focal meeting place for this University. Professors know best about what will serve the dialogue that we

value so highly. As students though, I feel we have a unique voice. Our dollars fund the University. This is our education. It's what we're paying for, and some of us will go broke to do it. We deserve the quality liberal arts education that we bargained for, not one based on quantity of students and

being "efficient." No, the buildings do not constitute who we are, but they do shape our day-to-day experiences and

reflect our values. We want dialogue and quality, especially in a building that will be the most utilized meeting place

for every student and most professors in a four-year period. It is our privilege and responsibility to speak about this as students, so we ought to take advantage of it.

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