Catapulted by its ambitious construction plans, determined academic initiatives and a revitalized campus and athletics, Elon University has risen through the ranks throughout the past two decades to sit deservedly as the No. 1 regional university of the south, according to U.S. News College Rankings.
For visitors touring the Elon University campus, it remains virtually impossible not to notice how extraordinarily beautiful it is. A new dining hall, new dorms in the heart of campus and signs foretelling even more future construction are all just small parts of Elon’s master plan to continue to overhaul the university.
But by placing an emphasis on always building for the future, a fair share of drawbacks occur and are felt by the current student body. Long-term goals remain the priority at Elon, but these goals have less benefit to students who currently call Elon home. Furthermore, Elon’s future construction goals do not completely consider the true needs of students. As Elon goes forward, an emphasis must be placed on smarter planning in all aspects of campus life, not just faster building.
So Elon — take a breath and slow down.
In recent weeks, Elon has seen a slew of minor but telling signs of some of the potential problems that come from building too much, too fast. When the focus is on the future, things in the present tend to go unnoticed until they become too big to ignore. Sewage leaks in the Oaks, poor sanitation ratings at one of only three dining halls on campus, mold in Virginia and Danieley— small oversights becoming big problems are symptoms of what happens when an emphasis on the future takes precedent over maintaining high quality in the present.
Then there are the day-to-day elements students feel only because they directly affect us. Long lines at dining halls and retail locations, mailroom lines backed up for half an hour and an overcrowded library are just some of the problems that need addressing before Elon can continue to grow its student body so rapidly. What do we expect to happen when we keep adding students to parts of our school that cannot even handle the current load without working to ease the problems?
Elon emphasizes improving educational quality remains the backbone of the entire campus initiative. But why do they make their construction priorities based around buildings that don’t directly benefit the students who currently call Elon home? Despite the fact Elon’s ongoing planning goals include “grow[ing] slowly, but not at the expense of academic quality,” only one of the eight main points (expanding academic facilities for science and communication) of the strategic decade plan from 2010-2020 actually directly adds to a stronger academic climate.
Other elements of the plan include a multimillion-dollar, 5,000-seat convocation center, a new admissions building, and a 1,500-seat auditorium, all while assisting and promoting retail development in the Town of Elon.
Furthering the intellectual infrastructure of Elon should be the first priority, the factors that help every student at Elon thrive. Dining halls, access to appropriate parking, adequate numbers of class sections, top-level teachers, and appropriate residential life is the infrastructure we need to consider before we start throwing up new, pricey centerpieces of our already incredible campus. A 5,000-person convocation center does the student body no good if the library is still too small.
Elon’s growth remains a point of pride, and for good reason. With the largest class sizes in Elon’s history, record numbers of applicants and higher incoming standardized test scores and high school GPAs, we’re having no trouble attracting national attention as it is.
But what happens when these record class sizes continue to grow without addressing current problems for students? Finding a spot in the library will be impossible, lines at the dining halls will be even longer during the lunch and dinner rushes and the mailroom line will pour out of Moseley. Simply put, without smarter planning with current students in mind, the Elon student body will outgrow the parts of Elon vital for their success.
If we always build for the future and never stop to see how the present choices affect current students, Elon will miss the point of providing a truly elite college experience. Academic excellence should never get lost in the shuffle of a beautiful new building. Current students should never take a backseat to future students.