By Amber James | firstname.lastname@example.org
Lazy rivers, 30-foot rock walks and massage rooms. It all sounds like a wonderful spa. But it isn’t a business for wellness; it’s a business for education. Its an American college or university.
In recent years, colleges and universities have been boosting the caliber of their campuses through ways other than academics. According to a study conducted by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, “spending on high-profile sports is increasing at double, sometimes triple, the rate of spending on academics.”
The University of Missouri has more than 14,000 pounds of free weights. The University of North Dakota has spent $20 million on their wellness center. Even locally, the University of North Florida has built an $86 million luxury dorm with a lazy river and putting green.
Sometimes we forget schools are just as desperate and money hungry as corporations. Students are the key.
“Some colleges, they’re providing a country club environment, because they think that’s what it’s going to take to bring students in,” Larry Weeks, director of business services and campus planner at Flagler, said.
True, Flagler still has the same resort-feel that it had in the 19th century when it was a grand hotel. Massive palm trees dot the campus and casual smokers lounge at a table on the patio of the student center. Sunbathers bronze themselves poolside while just yards away someone dives into the sand volleyball court during a nonchalant game with friends. In fact, when I Googled the keywords “colleges with nice campuses,” the first hit resulted in a top ten list where Flagler was ranked number one.
Flagler College has gone to its own lengths to improve and beautify the college, although not as far as building a lazy river. Recently, a 5,000 square foot plaza was erected in front of Kenan Hall, complete with picnic tables shaded by umbrellas and pathways to the Gazebo, library and student center. The most recent beautification project is the construction of a new welcome center.
It is the ugliest concrete building I have ever seen. Of course, it is still under construction. But they just had to build this obtrusive structure on top of one of the only parking lots in the urban jungle of downtown St Augustine.
I flinch every time I pass it. Why does Flagler College need a new welcome center and admissions building, which is actually called “Hanky Hall?” We already have a beautiful, historical mansion that serves as an office for admissions, financial aid and registrar.
With a moldy, decrepit communication building–which is devoid of necessary technical equipment–as well as a library that kicks students out at midnight like Cinderella at the ball, I thought we could be pouring money into salaries for more employees or focusing on making existing structures better.
Why build something we already have?
Weeks said image is important.
“It seems to be a trend in the industry and in education to have very nice welcoming, showcase facilities to try and attract students and their families,” Weeks said.
These things are all nice, but I wish I could find an open treadmill once in a while at the joke we call a gym or be able to come to the library after six on a Saturday.
What about the communication building? Will there be a new one? And 66 Cuna? What’s going on with those buildings? Shouldn’t we be focusing on those buildings?
Although they aren’t happening as fast as Hanky Hall, they are still projects underway.
66 Cuna St., which will be new offices for communication department professors, will be completed in April. Flagler is trying to secure the lot behind 66 Cuna for the radio station and tv studio.
The plans for the communication building seem very promising. There will be three buildings, each two stories, connected to each other. Different types of classes, not just communication courses, will be offered there.
My chilly disposition started to melt after speaking with Weeks. At least they’re focusing on those buildings too, which the college truly has a need for, I thought.
But one thing Weeks said really caught my attention.
“The Y generation is more demanding in what they want,” he said.
The Y generation might be demanding and spoiled, but we’re often too lazy to take action. As a result, we let others decide what we want.
We vote and pay with our money. We do still have a voice. I hear many students complaining about the library hours, the gym facilities and the communication building. If we all band together and demand improvements, then we might have a shot at getting them.