Vision 2020 should improve campus facilities

By Editorial Board

Have you ever used a restroom in Reavis or DuSable?

If you have, you may have noticed that the accommodations are far from ideal: broken stalls, unexpected odors and cramped spaces. DuSable doesn’t fare much better. Compare these buildings to others, like Altgeld, Barsema or the Engineering building, and it becomes clear that some areas of campus are worlds apart from others in terms of basic inhabitability.

As part of the university-wide Vision 2020 Initiative, President John Peters has made clear his intention to improve campus facilities in order to recruit and retain top-notch faculty, staff and students.

Judging by the state of some campus buildings, this is long overdue. The ongoing renovations of residence halls, the construction of a new freshman living area and the long-overdue overhaul of Cole Hall are great first steps, but they’re just that – first steps.

We hope these improvements amount to more than superficial beautification or continued improvements to palaces like Altgeld or Barsema. Improvements need to be made to buildings campus-wide, not just in those that house our most prestigious programs (or faculty and staff). The university can’t expect to attract prestigious English, political science or communications faculty (or students) if they have to work and teach (and relieve themselves) in a building like Reavis.

We’re not asking that every building on campus be as nice as the Engineering Building; that would be entirely unrealistic. But asking that bathrooms be made sanitary or ensuring professors don’t need to worry if their books and papers will be ruined by a leaky ceiling, as in Zulauf, is not too much to ask.

NIU has more majors than merely business, engineering or law – many more, in fact. But the learning environment for the varied academic pursuits at this university are not always equal.

To be fair, renovations like these are sometimes dependent on private donations, and it’s pretty rare to see communications or history alumni with the disposable income to donate an entire new facility to their department. Other times, these renovations are dependent on state monies and…well, we’ve seen how that’s gone for higher education in the last few years.

Even so, at some point the university needs to consider alternative ways to generate funds for improvements and upkeep on these buildings, especially if it wants to hit 30,000 students by 2020.

Are we asking for NIU to dedicate millions to completely overhauling each and every building on campus? No. We’re only asking for administrators to spread the wealth when the time comes to decide what work gets done where.