On Monday, Resident Advisors, Traverse Square tutors, current and former residents of Hi and Lo Rise and other students and faculty members gathered to discuss the University’s plans to construct a four-foot high railing between the William Street residences and Traverse Square.
Student representatives Nishita Roy ’07, Whitney Matthews ’07, Leah Cappellucci ’06, and Ethna Riley ’06 of the Undergraduate Residential Life Committee (URLC) held the meeting to update concerned community members about the proposed changes and to learn more about their concerns.
One reason the Administration gave for building the barrier included wanting to avoid the potential of a hazardous fall posed by the existing three-foot drop, deemed dangerous for people walking at night. Additionally, individuals involved in assaults in the William Street residences often run directly into Traverse Square to avoid being caught.
The forum addressed the social barrier the railing could represent between the University and the Middletown community. Some said they felt that the barrier reinforced negative images of students being unwilling to interact meaningfully with the community.
“Suddenly after thirty years, it’s a fall hazard?” Riley asked. “[There needs to be] a balance between the practical implication of what this will entail and [we] also need to consider the symbolic message.”
The issue of whether the planned construction would improve or detract from the safety of the area was discussed at length.
“[The Administration] is looking for anything possible that’s going to get them sued,” said Jose Marantes ’06.
Several students said they felt that the railing was merely an excuse on the part of the Administration to show parents that something was being done to ensure security on campus, given recent spikes in on-campus security incidents. Some also voiced the opinion that the issue of non-Wesleyan residents walking into Hi and Lo Rise was not as grave as the Administration claimed and that most local residents naturally avoided the area.
Despite being a co-coordinator of the Traverse Square tutoring program and a familiar face in the area, Riley was able to persuade only one Traverse Square resident to attend the open forum.
“You can’t even drag people over,” Riley said. “There’s already an invisible wall there.”
Although the majority of points raised at the forum were against the construction, there were a handful of students who either supported the barrier or were unsatisfied with the range of views expressed at the forum.
“I am not sure that this forum in itself is enough,” said Mike Butterfield ’06. “It’s definitely a small forum and there aren’t enough dissenting opinions. I may not agree with opposition opinions, but they need to be put into dialogue.”
Those in favor of the proposed barrier raised the issue of females’ discomfort in the William Street area due to catcalls on the way to Broad Street Books.
The members of the URLC said that Associate Director of Physical Plant Jeff Miller had been open to alternative ways of dealing with the drop, such as planting a community garden. The garden would limit general traffic across the Lo Rise courtyard, lowering the chance of children running across the area and possibly falling down the drop.
Some students suggested that Hi and Lo Rise residents should vote on the issue of additional construction, while others preferred addressing safety concerns with the current wall.
History and African American Studies Professor Demetrius Eudell attended the forum and suggested that students try to publicize the issue, possibly by producing a position paper.
“I think that you guys have laid out the issues very well,” said Eudell. “Essentially, it’s the misdiagnosis of a problem. You can see empire being enacted at the local level at Wesleyan.”