It’s been said so often that now it’s cliche: Apathy is the biggest problem with youth today. We’re told that we’re too wrapped up in our social lives and our school work to focus on anything but ourselves, and that we just don’t give a shit.
Well, now our apathy may really hurt us. Last week, the university announced a 50-year plan to overhaul the entire campus, our campus, to destroy buildings we have lived in and reshape the place we are spending four years in. And true to form, nobody really cares.
Once the plan was announced, the framework committee held three meetings to present this plan to the community (Full disclosure: My attendance at the first meeting wasn’t voluntary as I was there on assignment for NBN.) But when I showed up at Norris for the presentation, the room was so empty that I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. I wondered: Where is the passion for our school? Where are the vehement protesters, arguing about tearing down our memories? Where is the anger?
So I went searching for it. I conducted a less-than-scientific survey (my methods included harassing strangers in the food court in Norris) and asked what 75 people thought of the framework plan. I first had to explain what the campus overhaul plan was to 37 of them, which suggests that the university hasn’t done an adequate job of advertising the plan (maybe they don’t want us to care). Additionally, 49 people just didn’t care about it, including those who both were and weren’t aware of the plan to begin with.
But we should care. Erick Bennett, McCormick senior and attendee at the presentation, said “I’m a senior, it doesn’t affect me at all, and I still care about it. I’d like to think of Northwestern as a place that’s going to be around for a while, and I’d like to see it succeed…if we can make it better for [future students] by moving some buildings around…I think we owe it to the people.”
He’s right, we owe it to the future of Northwestern. This campus redesign isn’t for us, it’s for the class of 2048, and the principal and lead designer of Sasaki Associates, Ricardo Dumont knows it. Dumont said that with a new president next year comes a whole new vision for the school, and that any proposed construction must go through a slew of red tape. But ultimately, assuming it was adopted today, the first change wouldn’t take place for at least five years.
And as a freshman with no plans of being here for more than five years, this shouldn’t matter to me. To be honest, maybe I won’t care whether Bobb-McCulloch is still around when I’m not around to be in it. Open spaces, half crescents, moving Lunt Hall from one side of campus to another…what should it matter to me?
It matters because I remember the first time I went back to my elementary school and saw how different the classroom was from my memories. I remember the sadness I felt at my childhood not lasting forever. Tommy Rousse, a Weinberg junior, said “students need to keep in mind that even if [they] won’t be on campus when they start changing things, in 20, 30, 40 years, they’re going to want to come back to their alma mater and relive the best days of their lives, and it might not be their Northwestern anymore.”
In 50 years, if this plan is adopted, this campus will change to something we may not recognize. We should take the time to read the plan, or at least skim it over in between Spanish homework and Russian Lit. The obvious missing part of the overhaul, the relocating of Norris to a more central part of campus, is something that the committee may not consider if we don’t make it clear that is a student necessity.
Ultimately, our apathy, while making us feel cool and unattached, may screw us over. We could let this plan continue without our feedback or acknowledgment, not deigning it important enough to devote our precious time. When we come back in 50 years, though, and we can’t show our kids the Bobb bathroom we spent freshman year puking in or the spot on the Lakefill we took that special someone to, we’ll wish that we had given a damn.