Why is my campus ugly and why should I care?

As the college application season is coming to an end for high schoolers, I can’t help but feel nostalgic for when I was in their shoes, only a year ago. It was definitely a stressful time, full of essays and hard decisions; there were so many things to consider: the professor to student ratio, the major offers, the location of the college, the average graduation rate and so much more. A factor that I do not remember being on any of my lists when comparing colleges was the beauty of the campus.

This is probably why I find it so shocking when I learn how many people actually take that into account, and place a large amount of significance on it. Maybe I am delusional, but I do not think that the way the campus looks is a big deal—but of course you choose the prettiest car and not the safest or most efficient car, right?

I agree that the quality of the dorms is a different question, but that is not what I am talking about. As long as the buildings serve their function, how they look should not matter.

When I was researching Brandeis, one of the top complaints that were mentioned was how ugly the campus is, and how people do not want to go because of that. I’m sorry, but you don’t want to apply to a school because you think the campus is ugly? So are you going to college to learn something or to stare at buildings?

Furthermore, when you graduate and have to go out into the “real world,” do you really think your future employers will care about how pretty your college campus was? Or would they care more about the quality of education or practical experience you were able to gain? I really hope that the latter is the case.

Another important thing to consider in this debate is the opportunity cost of having a pretty campus. Building new aesthetically pleasing buildings, maintaining lawns and other natural decorations, putting up new statues—all these things cost money, funds that could be used for many other things. Just like everything else in the world, a school’s budget is finite, and every dollar that goes towards beautifying the campus is a dollar that doesn’t go to a more important cause.  

Would I agree with you if you asked me if I think the SCC needs a paint job? Yes, definitely. But are there better things to spend that money on? Without a doubt. There are so many things that are much more important to our education than how the buildings on campus look on the outside. The money could be spent on making the campus more green or accessible for students. Or to fund projects that would help students succeed in future, such as more resources to help students find internships (which in the long run would have a much greater impact than having the SCC look better).

Would you rather go to a school that spends a lot of money on making the campus look better or a school that focuses on providing its students with more opportunities?

Out of curiosity I presented a scenario to a group of my friends: Brandeis has a few million dollars left over that can be spent on something, and the spending options were improving food, the career center, campus aesthetics or more club funding (things I hear the most complaints about).

Not a single person chose campus aesthetics as what they would spend the money on; it was a tie between food and the career center. I understand that this “survey” has very little legitimacy and does not by any means represent the opinion of all students at Brandeis, but I found it interesting that no one chose campus aesthetics as what they want the extra money to be spent on.

I also understand that a lot of beautifying is done to attract more students to attend the university, or at least that is often cited as the reason, but that doesn’t help me understand this. No matter what you say, everyone judges a book by its cover, but isn’t the most important part not letting that first impression get in the way of what is on the inside?

Personally, when I was making the decision of where to go to college, I was focused on what people said about the professors, the classes offered, the community, the people who go there, opportunities for students, clubs and organizations. Even the food was a higher priority; then again, in my opinion, campus aesthetics should be one of the last things on one’s priority list when choosing a college.

The main job for my eyes in college is to look at what professors are writing on the boards, and not constantly judging the aesthetics of the buildings on campus. Maybe my opinion is weird; I don’t know.

If you think I am kidding, just Google “Brandeis is ugly.”  You will find a lot people saying just how ugly the Brandeis campus is. Maybe they’re upset because they didn’t get accepted, or maybe their priorities really are on the physical appearance of a campus.  

It is nice to have a pretty campus, but is it really that important? Let me take a step back and say that I don’t even think Brandeis is that ugly in the first place. Maybe the SCC or SSC are not the most aesthetically pleasing buildings I’ve ever seen, but they are by no means terrible. Most of the other buildings on campus are not bad looking. And yes, maybe if I was making a list of the top 10 most beautiful college campuses in America, Brandeis wouldn’t be on it; it might not even be on my list of top 100, but it would also definitely not be on the list of ugliest colleges either.

When I walk around Brandeis what captures my attention most is how embedded into nature the campus is. There’s grass and trees everywhere, and so much open space which allows for so many outdoor activities. There are many places on campus where you can go to just enjoy some peace in the small forests on campus. Also, how many college campuses have squirrels and rabbits running around? It’s one of my favorite things about the campus: I have a squirrel walking me back to my dorm almost every day. How great is that?  

The campus is especially beautiful in the fall. Because of the amount of trees we have, when the leaves are changing color, Brandeis becomes one large breathtaking mix of colors. Most of the time, the nature that is everywhere on campus takes all the attention away from the buildings themselves, regardless of what they look like.

Am I the only person who’s seen the Usen Castle? Or will someone tell me that it is ugly too? Maybe it is not as pretty as it was before, now that most of it is replaced by Skyline, but it is still a beautiful sight. How many colleges have a castle that’s almost a hundred years old?

Many will argue that a lot of the buildings on campus do not match with each other, however I think that it is part of Brandeis’ beauty. Is it weird to have an old castle right next to a modern building? Sure. But that is exactly what reflects Brandeis’s growth and changes. You have a castle that has been here for longer than the university itself and a building that has been here for less than a year.

The same thing goes for most buildings on this campus: They are indicators of all the changes that took place at Brandeis and how the campus has changed in the 70 years since it was founded. The campus is also scattered with various statues, which you could also argue don’t go together with some of the buildings.

But those small things are exactly what make the character of the university: They show how willing Brandeis is to accept everyone’s creative movements and self expression.

So if all of these buildings are so important to our history and identity, why do they get so much crap from people? Would everyone really rather give all that up for new, expensive buildings, even if they are much prettier? Would they really be worth all the money that would be spent on this? Is it really that important?

We are here to get an education, and to get an education you do not need to study pretty buildings: You need good professors and a good learning environment. A pretty building is a nice thing to have, but by no means a necessity or something that should be the main focus of monetary spending.    

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