By Aisha K. Thomas
Residents of Hinton James Residence Hall are taking action against the temporary fence preventing them from crossing Manning Drive, attempting to destroy the fence and vowing to keep it down.
The fence was installed because officials were concerned that pedestrians were jaywalking at Manning Drive, said Christopher Payne, director of the Department of Housing and Residential Education.
But residents say the fence only causes more inconveniences.
"I think the fence is kind of pointless," said sophomore Allison Jackson. "People are going to cross the street there anyway."
The new fence forces residents to go through the back door of Hinton James and walk along Skipper Bowles Drive before crossing at the Manning and Skipper Bowles intersection.
But many students continue to cross Manning in front of Ehringhaus Residence Hall after traveling down the Hinton James driveway and walking along the fence.
Freshman Hilary Greene said the fence creates more safety problems than it resolves. "I'm surprised that it is still up," she said. "As long as it is up, somebody is going to get killed trying to cross that street."
Many residents have complained about the location of the fence, so the Hinton James Area Government sponsored a forum Monday night for students to voice these concerns.
But after the forum, irate students took matters into their own hands and tore down part of the fence.
Junior Jonathan Lowman was one of many Hinton James residents who said they would not allow the fence to stay. "It's just going to get knocked down," he said. "If somebody else doesn't do it, I probably will."
University officials said they do not want to inconvenience students and that they are disappointed students are vandalizing the fence.
"We recognize that (the fence) wasn't the best solution, but it was a solution," said Associate Director of Housing Larry Hicks.
"We are not going to go back and forth with students on that, but the fence will be replaced if it is damaged."
Students also said it takes an extra 10 minutes to get to class because of the detour.
Some students said the fence is so inconvenient, they want to move next semester.
"South Campus is already out of the way, and now there is at least 15 minutes added to your morning," said senior Alifea Davis. "There is no other route, and everybody in the dorm is thinking about leaving."
Payne said students at the forum suggested alternatives to the fence, including a new crosswalk on Manning Drive.
Students at the forum started a petition aimed to convince the Chapel Hill Department of Transportation to install the crosswalk.
But Payne said this is not feasible because UNC does not have control over the roads that run through campus.
"It will take the Chapel Hill Department of Transportation and the University to work together to achieve that," he said.
Hinton James Area Director Jerrid Freeman said another temporary option would be wooden planks for residents to walk on placed on top of the construction area, but he questioned the feasibility of this idea.
"Who knows if (the University) will be able to do that?" he said.
Payne said officials are not sure how long the sidewalk will be closed but that they are working with contractors to hurry the construction.
Hicks said the department wants to continue working with students through avenues such as the forum.
"From the housing department perspective, the forum was a good thing," he said. "We are actually empathetic and side with the students. What we are trying to do is rectify and get ideas on issues concerning students."
The University Editor can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.