[Schadenfreude update. On May 31 a gas line was ruptured outside Faner--sending employees home from surrounding buildings. Earlier a water line had been ruptured, cutting of the AC in the building (but that luckily happened before the recent heat wave). Who's operating that there steam-shovel, anyway? And I wonder if the contractor's insurance will pay back the university for having to give hundreds of employees paid time off work.]
Comments are closed on this post due to violations of Godwin's Law, and thanks--special thanks--to numerous other anonymous offenses against good taste, bad taste, any taste at all. For similar reasons, even before shutting comments down, I have forever deleted (ah, what absolute powers I have as blogmaster, though they are but a pale foreshadow of my administrative kingdom to come!) I have deleted, I say, a number of terribly clever personal and impersonal attacks made via abusive references to poultry--who really deserve better, don't you think? Is there a law mandating that comment threads cease and desist once we get to maladroit rhetorical bestiality of this sort? Gosh, there should be. Johnson's Law? I shall be immortal, after all.
OK, I promised only retrospective posts but this one is close to home. The Southern has a story today on the renovated "pedestrian mall" outside Faner, where I work.
Two points: the non-aesthetic reasons for this renovation given in the story are bogus. And this is a helluva lot of money: $1.25 million.
The non-aesthetic justification for the renovation appears to be that the current area is unsafe. The concrete is cracked, vehicular traffic in the area is a threat to pedestrians, and the renovations will improve lighting and add a security phone. But I had thought that the vehicular access problem had already been solved, with a $250 removable post inserted off the Faner Circle to control automotive access. If the sidewalks were cracked they weren't obviously in worse shape than other areas of campus (and I walked or rode my bike across these sidewalks most work days). The ramp didn't look or feel new, but as far as I know (and I'm no structural engineer, of course), the "deterioration" was aesthetic rather than structural--meaning that the ramp matched the rest of Faner's brutal concrete in this regard. If better lighting and a security phone will improve security, well and good, but they won't cost $1.25 million.
So we're spending $1.25 million to beautify the area. Beauty is a splendid thing, and always hard to price--had no one been willing to spend money on beauty we'd never have any attractive buildings or attractive artificial areas on campus. I suppose we'll have to see what the area ends up looking like. To my mind, the space between Faner and Shyrock and Faner and Allyn wasn't exactly an eyesore, at least by Carbondale standards, but perhaps the new area will be so lovely that we'll welcome this change in the end.
There will, of course, be fewer of us to enjoy the area, given the hiring freeze and exodus of faculty and staff. By my back of the envelope calculations, leaving the pedestrian mall as it is would allow SIUC to hire one professor to work in Faner Hall for twenty years ($1,250,000 / $60,000 = 20.8). One professor doesn't seem such a high price for aesthetics--but one professor could make a huge difference in a department desperate to replace departed or departing colleagues. Another way of looking at it: the College of Liberal Arts was guessing that it might be allowed to be able to hire about 10 faculty next year, I think. Given the bad budgetary news threatening us from Springfield, that number may prove overly optimistic. So this pedestrian mall is costing at least 10% of the hiring budget for the College of Liberal Arts. You do the math.