Construction must consider student concerns

UConn students walk past construction last fall on the now-completed STEM residence hall, called the Next Generation Connecticut Halls, near the Putnam Refectory on Sept. 1, 2015. (Erika Elechicon/The Daily Campus)

With summer in Storrs comes campus-wide construction projects. This summer has been no different, with the most notable projects including the demolition of the Connecticut Commons dormitories and the continued construction of the new engineering building. While this construction is necessary to continue the growth and improvement of campus infrastructure, the University must be sure to prioritize accessibility when organizing large-scale construction efforts.

The University of Connecticut’s flagship campus in Storrs is situated on 4,093 acres. While most of the academic buildings are concentrated in central campus, the standard passing time of 15 minutes between classes is a stretch for some. Notably, as freshmen begin their college careers this week, this small window of time offers little leeway to cover confusion and uncertainty regarding classroom locations.

Though it is to be expected that new students take time to learn the layout of the Storrs campus, and plan their schedule with distance between classes in mind, the addition of large-scale construction complicates this task. For the University, it would be wise and helpful to provide a short summary of current and future construction, and the normal thoroughfares that will be closed as a result.

During the week prior to the commencement of the fall semester, construction crews were operating late into the night, working to lessen inconvenience by avoiding times of peak campus congestion. This was beneficial to students moving in early, such as members of residence staff, and is one tactic the University should use to the fullest extent possible moving forward.

Further, as the University continues to modernize the campus through construction projects, accessibility for disabled students must be ensured. While blocking off certain entrances to buildings, or paths through the center of campus is a moderate inconvenience for most students, those problems may be compounded for students with disabilities. Again, in these instances, providing some overall summary of campus construction may prove a fruitful option.

Ultimately, construction is vital to the future of UConn, and the University’s move toward becoming one of the nation’s premiere public universities. The growth and evolution of a university cannot be limited to faculty, staff and students. Infrastructure, especially with the growing importance of science, technology, math and engineering (STEM) education, must be improved over time. Consolidating most construction to the summer months is ideal; however, for projects that must press on into the fall and spring, the University should continue to prioritize accessibility for all who traverse the campus.