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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, June 22, 2024

No need to bulldoze Gordon Commons yet

Most students here are familiar with Gordon Commons. Regardless of your love-hate relationship with University Housing, you have to admit it's a homey place to relax during free time. Well, fun at Pop's Club and Ed's Express will soon come to an end, as UW plans to tear down the building this upcoming summer. Even if you look at the upcoming project glazed with rosy assumptions, the $34 million project is probably unnecessary.

According to an informational meeting last week, the plan includes two parts: a new Gordon Commons on the same block and a new lawn on the original site. Campus planning officials see this as a wonderful move toward more green space for the student community. Think about the new sunbathing and Frisbee opportunities for southeast dorm residents! All these relaxing activities will be available right outside your building!

But do we want to lavish invaluable downtown square footage on something we don't really need? After all, UW-Madison is famous for its scenic campus. If students are looking for greenery, the Lakeshore area has some of the best around. If you think these Badgers might complain about the distance, you've made a serious mistake. Whenever I walk to Picnic Point, there are always students in Sellery's rainbow t-shirts jogging down the Howard Temin Lakeshore Path. Even if these attractions seem far away for some busy residents, they can still find tons of fun on the lawn right by Witte Hall. On a breezy summer afternoon, it's a great place to shed some sweat with your volleyball buddies. But watch out during the winter. If you don't want to get caught off-guard by random snowballs, grin at the ""bad guys"" and join the fight! See? Students on the Southeast campus have quite a few choices already. For those who don't use these resources already available to them, the new lawn will not make any difference.

School officials argue the lawn will be an ideal spot for picnics and other large events. I strongly doubt that. Don't forget: The lawn will be stretched along West Johnson, one of the busiest streets in Madison. Can you relax in clouds of dust and chill out amongst the drones of peak-hour traffic?

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Even if the plan eventually turns into reality, I'll be wondering how long such a green utopia can exist. Its location is the heart of Madison, where high rises nudge against each other for a spot. Once the lawn is done, it will immediately fall under the siege of a concrete forest.

The demolition of Gordon Commons is also part of the discussion at Campus Planning Committee meetings. In 2007, Director of University Housing Paul Evans stated the building can no longer meet students' needs. As a past housing resident, I don't understand how a single dining hall can fail to meet students' expectations. So far, the only complaints I've heard are about the menus. But that's a headache for culinary services on every campus. And in our case, it has nothing to do with the building. Its 40-year history may sound like a valid reason to demolish it, but shouldn't we tear down what doesn't work, not what is old? Gordon Commons is still fully functional, requiring occasional renovations at most. The new building will have a cafeteria, a convenience store and a coffee shop. Anyone who has been to Gordon Commons knows the current building offers all these services. The construction project is virtually the same thing in a new shell. So what's the point of a $34 million investment?

If the university really wants to look at issues with on-campus buildings, they should focus more attention on the academic area. Once in the Humanities Building, everyone can accurately tell severe weather: If it's raining outside, you will have drizzle inside. I have even seen tiles falling off the wall in its biggest lecture hall, room 3650. UW says it will demolish the building, but not until 2019. I doubt the current condition of Humanities will allow it to fully function for another ten years.

Many students have been drawn to UW-Madison by its open character, embracing both the tranquility of lakeshore and vitality of the southeast campus. A plan to wipe out this attraction might not be what we want to see.

Qi Gu is a junior majoring in journalism. Please send responses to opinion@dailycardinal.com. 

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