Saturday, February 23, 2008

Poor East Campus

Western has recently seen another round of hand-wringing over the fate of East Campus.

For those who don't know, East Campus sits on a ridge between Waldo Stadium and downtown Kalamazoo. It was the original campus of Western at its founding in 1903. For sixty years or so, it was Western. In the 1950's and '60's, most of Western's functions moved west to what is now main campus. East Campus continued to be used for scattered functions.

These days, the buildings of East Campus are deteriorating. One of the two remaining occupants of East Hall, the oldest of the buildings, is moving out. The other is expected to leave before too long.

Historical preservationists want to save East Campus. They point out, correctly, that the East Campus buildings are the most architecturally interesting buildings at Western. They are also important to Western's history.

However, there are significant practical problems with saving East Campus. The buildings are non-functional and would require many millions of dollars of renovation to be used for classes or offices. That's money that Western doesn't have. Further, building new buildings or renovating buildings on main campus like Sangren is a better use of the money that Western does have.

Another major problem is the lack of parking available for East Campus. There are maybe a hundred spots on the ridge, not nearly enough for many classes or offices. There isn't room for parking anywhere nearby, either. East Campus is too far away for students to easily walk there. Bus service is unreliable.

Without any good options, people will continue to lament the situation, but it isn't likely to change very much.

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