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Protecting our precious pathways

Protecting our precious pathways

By Matthew Kowalyk

Section: Featured, Opinions

April 8, 2016

Brandeis stands out among the institutions of its caliber in its values, its activism, its daily goings-on, but obviously in its architecture choices. I personally toured (with the help of my parents, of course) almost 20 different schools before I began to send college applications, and they all had their unique building styles. UC Berkeley has a requirement that any new buildings on the school grounds are built in the defining architectural style of the period; Carnegie Mellon has large, concrete buildings, with a few neoclassical and striking glass edifices; Brandeis has a castle sitting among concrete, bordering-on-brutalist buildings, all built after 1948. The Village has a more colorful, modern flair, of course, but two of the defining characteristics that unite almost all buildings on campus are concrete and brick.

With our contemporary values constantly emphasized through the people this campus attracts, there are fewer styles more appropriate; East Quad was built in the 60s, a tumultuous time full of social change and activism. However, there is one component of the campus aesthetic that deserves to be addressed: the quality of our pathways. This is an issue that I can say with absolute certainty affects us all, no matter your gender, class, calling or creed. We all drink the same tap water (unless you have a filter of some kind, of course) and eat the same Sodexo (or we will in a few more class years), but without exception, if you set foot on the Brandeis campus, you use the same pathways. If you drive, the roads make up a significant part of the experience as well.

What about our paths is worth discussing? The fact that so few have spoken out about our paths is the most important reason to discuss this alone. There are cracks all around, splits in the pavement that impede our movement anywhere we go. Some of the most noticeable problem areas are places around the library, along Loop Road behind Massell Quad, some areas within the quad, the alley between the science buildings and Pearlman and a few sections between the Rosies, Sherman and the Louis statue. The walkways around the Castle have always been littered with cracks and crags, but hopefully the new building plans for the surrounding area will include improvement of the surrounding grounds. The average pedestrian may not see issue with these seemingly meager cracks in the concrete, but those who ride skateboards, pedal on bicycles or choose to transport themselves with scooters know well every imperfection and its effect on their shock absorbers. I cannot imagine the situation being any easier for those who used to “hover” around our campus, but with their problems stymied with the recent ban, the threats to their underside, sensitive lithium-ion batteries will no longer cause problems. However, forms of transportation still sanctioned by our superiors face issues with uneven concrete surfaces every day.

These same paths are frequented by campus staff and campus vehicles, and if the problems of the broken pathways are not addressed, there will be problems for these constituencies as well. These issues should be addressed before our campus is littered with enough fissures that tour groups might notice them. The effect on the prospective students, or, more accurately, prospective parents, will be subtle but will have a notable effect if left unchecked. The paths contrasting with the newer architecture will give an image of lower credibility against a backdrop of a school that has much less history than competing institutions. The cracked pathways around campus must be repaired if we are to impress visitors, whether tour groups or speakers or guest professors.

For the benefit of all students and staff, whether or not they use any set of wheels to traverse the campus, we must maintain the integrity of our precious paths. This is an issue that unites all Brandeisians. Paths should not only be repaired, but sections of grass that have been beaten down in order to reach destinations more efficiently (such as around Usdan) should become official paths. Although this effort is small in comparison to some of the bigger projects our campus will undertake in the near future, this one has its own importance. People care about the little things whether they know it or not. Fixing our walkways and building new ones where they are most convenient will show a dedication to the little things in such tumultuous times, as well as showing that the administration watches over the needs of their students closely. For our image, for our students, for our transportation and, in some ways, for our future, we need to repair our pathways and walkways.

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