The planning phase of the DU Campus Master Plan, a major effort to enhance the university’s presence in the community, is nearing completion, indicating that the revamp which once seemed a feat is actually going to start happening. University Architect Mark Rodgers and David Greenberg, as well as members of Ayers Saint Gross (ASG), the firm hired by DU to plan building projects, were on campus this past week presenting land use and design plans and holding forums for students, faculty and neighbors to give input.
Despite invites to events in the Pioneer PULSE newsletter, social media posts and flyers around campus, turnout at these events have so far been a bit dismal. At the student forum on Oct. 17, a small, albeit invested, group of Undergraduate Student Government members was in attendance, giving suggestions and opinions from the front row of dozens of empty chairs. The discussion ranged from a proposed hotel on campus to desires for a revamped University Blvd. to new housing options, and the concepts and renderings presented by ASG and DU officials showed what a dramatic change we can expect around here in the next few years.
Students are going to have different kinds of reactions to the changes, and those exact reactions will unfold with the project. The trouble is, it is very difficult for outside firms like ASG to know what students are looking for in a campus master plan without student input. Currently, a handful of students, mostly these Student Government members, are some of the only present student voices to have the ears of ASG and university administrators. An equally small group was expected at the neighborhood forum. Ultimately, although these officials have made efforts to share ideas with the community, it has been a small section that has participated.
These voices are very important, but they do not come close to representing the entire campus community. For a university with an oft-stated and hopeful vision for inclusive excellence, a diverse range of community voices would seem to be in order for a project like this. Instead, they are working with relatively little student perspective from a relatively alike group. This cross-section of students is minuscule in terms of the range of interests on campus.
At a certain point, though, some blame falls on us. When the changes ruffle feathers around campus, there will likely be frustration from university officials over why more students did not participate in the planning phase. These officials and the team members of ASG could have done more to reach out to more voices—and a more diverse range of voices—but students also need to put in some effort when it comes to seeking information about where input is needed. This may mean scanning through the PULSE or doing some sleuthing on the internet, but it is an effort that is worth the time if we want the campus changes to reflect the desires of a larger number of people.
The community input opportunities for ASG’s involvement in the campus master plan are now largely over, but there are still ways to participate. University Architect Mark Rodgers mentioned that other projects, such as new undergraduate residence halls, will be moving forward separately from the campus master plan, and there will be more opportunities for feedback. We can keep an eye out for offered forums and surveys, and students can also think of ways to reach a better sample of our community to participate. The coming changes are not subtle in the slightest, and we also must make sure that the wishes of neighbors are being heard as well. People in high places with lots of decision power offering the chance to give feedback is a rare occurrence. Let’s speak up while we have the chance.