The path to campus modernization is bumpy

Photo by Morgan Fries

By Sydney Owada

The crisp morning air quickens your pace as you exit your residence hall. You can hear the stream bubbling as you approach the ravine; the trees growing by the banks of the creek are softly rustling as the wind blows through their strikingly green leaves. Small droplets plop onto your head as you cross the bridge through this small slice of wilderness.

These thoughts are likely to cross the minds of any wide-eyed Lewis & Clark “prospie” who is eager to attend a school that has a smidgen of the Hogwarts aesthetic appeal. In reality, however, it is impossible to simply enjoy the scenery of LC without considering the conditions that come with it. In particular, the walk from residential to academic campus, albeit rather beautiful, can be difficult to navigate. Even if you have been walking the same path for two years, it is only a matter of time before you trip over a cobblestone right after congratulating yourself for having made it across the bridge without slipping. When the weather is particularly torrential, you feel lucky to arrive to class unscathed.

Although the bridges (when they are open) act as a year-round Slip ’N Slide and the cobblestones are hazardous for weak ankles, they are two characteristics of the College that elicit the “Ah…very LC” remark. Our community is built partially on the common experience of interacting with these and other campus landmarks daily. They represent an aspect of our shared home. This is the appeal the prospective student imagines: he not only likes the aesthetic, but likes that it is a foundational part of the campus identity.

LC’s sesquicentennial celebration this year serves as a reminder that this campus identity rests on the brick and stone of the Manor House and its sprawling grounds. We cannot help but feel a certain nostalgia for the historical — even as we work to modernize the campus. This is likely the reason for our efforts to preserve some of it. The Frank Manor House and its gardens were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, thereby protecting the structures and allowing these remnants of the College’s past identity to persevere.

Nevertheless, modernization and the subsequent alteration of some aspects of the campus are necessary, both for the safety of students and the functionality of the campus. For example, the infamous bridges are scheduled for renovations as they have become structurally unsound after over 60 years of exposure to the Portland elements. The Templeton bridge has been replaced by an ADA accessible ramp, which is a large improvement in the general ease of access in that area. The main bridge linking the residential and academic campuses will be remodeled to comply with ADA and seismic requirements. (The newly accessible bridge will still drop you into the particularly perilous cobblestone circle.) The upgrade will also include lighting and a roof, an ingenious way to keep the rain off and reduce the number of weekly faceplants.

Currently, accessibility seems to satisfy the bare minimum of ADA requirements. This not only affects prospective students who must take such accomodations into consideration due to an existing condition, but also those students who currently attend LC and become injured. If you live at the top of Copeland and are stuck on a scooter due to an injury, there is no alternative to climbing the numerous flights of stairs. For those who require crutches, the cobblestones may be the shortest way to academic campus, but they are the most treacherous. Disabled or injured students should not have to worry about finding the safest way around campus. Going to and from class or the residence hall should not seem like an inconvenience. With the impending solidification of the Lewis & Clark Facilities Plan, it is likely that the tension between the need to update the campus and a desire to preserve the character of its more antiquated features will increase. Modernization is essential if the campus is to increase accessibility to all areas, physically unify the numerous loci of student life and embrace the liberal arts push for progress by keeping with the times. Nevertheless, it is important to recognize that while modernization is needed, we should also pay homage to the parts of the campus that exemplify the longevity of the college and the history of its pioneering spirit. Though some of these aspects may seem inconvenient, they are more than just a curb-appeal ploy used by admissions; they create a common environment that helps to form a greater campus identity. By melding modernization and preservation, LC has the opportunity to create an equally innovative and historic living-learning environment that is quintessentially LC.

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