The University’s welcome page for the incoming class of 2026 encourages incoming first years to “imagine waking up in a place that has been ranked the most beautiful college campus in America.” Reading this, I have to laugh. The photo at the top of the page displays the Lawn, conveniently with the pavilions that have been under construction this past year out of frame. Of course, the Lawn is the University’s biggest flaunt, what with its greenery and crowning Rotunda. But that “beautiful college campus” that the University hopes to allure students with is a lie. Grounds are perhaps pretty when there’s no construction, but what current student knows a University free of construction? New sites and projects are constantly arising. No matter where you are on Grounds, you are bound to see caution tape, gravel parking lots, scaffolding, closed roads, orange cones, dump trucks, forklifts, neon vests and hardhats.
Let me take you through my average Monday. In the morning, I move my car from the lot near my Bice apartment — which doesn’t ticket on weekends — to the Emmet/Ivy Garage that I have a permit for. On Brandon Avenue, I drive down the previously one-way road that has been converted into tricky two-way traffic. Reaching Emmet/Ivy Garage, I navigate the construction that restricts exits and entrances to the garage’s access street. Back outside, I cross Ivy Road to the construction that lines the International Residential College. I cross Emmet, continuing onto University Avenue and approaching the large construction area at Alderman Library. Facing away from University Avenue, this site swaddles Clemons, where I’ll go to study later.
Back at Bice from this morning trip, I leave for class. The quickest route to my first class of the day involves walking down the street where construction workers enter the Brandon Avenue site. Dump trucks drive down the road, avoiding the students traveling on foot. Walking down McCormick Road, I stay to the side that isn’t part of the multiple construction sites. Students stop as a worker ushers a truck out of the construction occurring alongside Brown Residential College on a road that approaches Newcomb.
I use first-person tense here, but heavy construction is by no means an individual problem. Construction has infiltrated Grounds. Students have spoken beyond just its heavy presence and on to its outright negative impact — shaking buildings, constant noises and floodlights at night. One of the Opinion section’s own writers, Riley Lorgus, has attested to construction’s impact on the IRC, importantly noting the inaccessibility caused by these projects.
Don’t get me wrong — I’m enthusiastic about some of the outcomes of these projects. I love seeing money put into library systems, though the Alderman Library renewal won’t be completed until after I graduate next year. Additionally, construction workers are absolutely not to blame for the inconveniences of these sites. These workers are only doing their job.
However, with this article, I want to tell all incoming students — as well as students who will be incoming for at least the next few years, if not much longer — that the University is a far cry from the picturesque scenery that comes with a search of Grounds on Google images. Yes, there are more important consequences resulting from intense construction — especially the reduction of mobility and accessibility — but the University is lying to students when it touts its beauty, as it’s so keen to do. Even if the Lawn and Rotunda are appealing attractions, a whole University exists around it, and that University is, to be blunt, a mess. These projects are part of University President Jim Ryan’s 2030 Strategic Plan, so we can expect construction will continue till at least the end of this decade.
As you arrive on Grounds for the first time, construction sites will be hard to miss. Depending on where you live, they might hinder your move-in process as well. If you’re lucky, these projects will just change your route to class. If you’re unlucky, you’ll find sidewalks you use regularly suddenly shut down — again, no notice if these aren’t by your residential area. You’ll wake up before your alarm to the sound of concrete being jackhammered into with no notice given.
For the amount of money many of us pay and borrow to attend this school, we deserve honesty when it comes to the place we study, work and live at. And incoming students — especially those who can’t visit Grounds before they enroll — deserve to know the high presence of construction here. The welcome page for the Class of 2026 is ironically right to prompt us to “imagine” living somewhere beautiful. Grounds look as though we attend a construction site more than a school, let alone the imaginative “beautiful college campus” that the University presents itself as. Construction is inevitable, but the stunning sites the University advertises itself as possessing are largely a scam right now — future students should know it.
Bryce Wyles is an Opinion Editor for The Cavalier Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of The Cavalier Daily. Columns represent the views of the authors alone.