Those who crafted the Development Plan march to the tune of growth, growth, growth. Its proponents are fired up with a vision of "To the moon!"-style expansion and construction. Our University has been stared in the eye and told "Go west, young man." Not to mention east, north and south. But the University has many elements that could use fixing before we start spreading.
Much of the plan focuses on growth and development of new areas. This is inevitable and necessary.
But what is needed is more attention to programs and policies that cultivate campus community, especially among freshmen.
Something UNC-Chapel Hill needs to put on the banned list along with halogen lamps is the way in which UNC-CH deals with an ever increasing freshmen class each year.
We do not have the facilities to handle how many we have now, and the size of our student body is already intimidating. The UNC system has mandated increased enrollment for each of its system schools, but that doesn't change the reality that enrollment and campus growth are not moving at the same speed.
Now I am not a college bigwig. I don't have one of those red phones with one button and an open line straight to the ear of the administration.
It's simple. Five hundred additional students each year is more than the University can handle right now. This is a no-brainer, guys. Come on. We've had students sleeping in cardboard boxes in study lounges. That is a good way to breed resentment and maybe diseases, but not community.
It's not that they're not great folks or qualified students or genuinely beautiful human beings. Keeping our freshman class the same size for at least a few years will not be a detriment to the University. It's not fair to the new students or the existing body to stretch outside their means.
Do we want to become the bloated Texas A&M of the Southeast? Constantly expanding student numbers will do nothing but decrease the intimacy and community of the campus (which is lacking as is). Every class should not be the "biggest ever" and mandating increased acceptance does a disservice to the school.
If we are not going to keep UNC smaller, we can at least make it seem smaller through community-building policy.
The University adopts a "sink or swim" attitude with freshmen. But in many cases learning to swim by being thrown in the deep end is a poor method. This is a huge, scary place for freshmen. It is so easy to fall into the trap of anonymity, of just being a PID number in a sea of Tar Heels. It is near criminal that the University is not doing absolutely everything in its power to make living here easier. Students should not bear the heaviest burden of creating community.
Theme houses are a good start. There are a number of these offered, but they allow for a small percentage of 3,600 newcomers -- I know lots of folks who wanted in but were not accepted.
We should offer more theme houses, or at least put on a concerted effort to make making connections easier. A policy where all freshman have to pick a theme house would do wonders -- we could seriously expand the options: community service, current issues and sports, just to name a few. These could be extended to sophomores to boot.
Fact is this is a very big place, and the size can make it much more difficult to make friends and close connections with others. We don't want students to pass through their education without creating many deep ties within the campus.
This lack of community might be a reason why so many move off-campus. It fragments the student community and is a poor testament to the quality of life residence halls have to offer.
That is not the case at many colleges, and it doesn't have to be here. Before we worry about expanding, we need to go all out to make sure what we already have is the right system.
Come on, administrators! Let's make this house a home.
Erin Fornoff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.