Construction: You hear it, you see it, you smell it — it’s everywhere. It’s part of daily life here at George Mason University. You can walk your regular route one day and find out the next day that it’s going to take you an extra five minutes to get to class because construction workers just broke ground on a new project. It can be a hassle in the everyday lives of students, but at the end of the day, the finished products are part of the reason why Mason is such an innovative university with a rapidly expanding student body.
Construction at Mason really is a double-edged sword. It’s amazing how many new buildings and parking decks have sprung up in just the past few years. When I was a freshman just four years ago, there was no Recreation and Athletic Complex, School of Art, Eastern Shore, Hampton Roads, Rogers and Whitetop, Rappahannock Parking Deck, Mason Inn, Engineering Building or University Hall. In fact, Southside was just opening. Buildings like Thompson Hall have been completely renovated, and Science and Technology is getting a huge expansion, with STII in the process of being completely gutted.
A lot has obviously changed over the past few years, including the names of buildings. I still don’t understand why we have three buildings with similar names such as Mason Hall, College Hall and University Hall. Mason is an innovative institution, but the Naming Committee evidently is not. Was it really necessary to change the name of the Sandy Creek Parking Deck to Shenandoah Deck when the names of the road and the bus stop are still Sandy Creek? Totally unnecessary — but then again, the Naming Committee hasn’t exactly proven to be all that effective. The monikers of the various campus neighborhoods really haven’t caught on either. No one knows or cares whether you’re in the Shenandoah or the Rappahannock housing neighborhoods. I’m fairly involved here at Mason, and I don’t even know all the “neighborhood names.” But I digress.
It would have been nice to be spared the noise, smell and inconvenience of construction projects at some point during my four years here. Twice last semester, one of my lecture classes in STII was canceled due to the odor of fresh tar being laid down outside. I mean, who doesn’t enjoy a missed class? But I think the university should refund my money for those missed classes.
Construction also makes it more difficult for disabled individuals, who already have to deal with unreliable access buttons on building entrances, to get around campus. Rerouting walking paths such as the one by STII adds to the difficulties of campus navigation for someone in a wheelchair, who now must also negotiate the narrow, steep access ramp.
Other construction woes include the closure of Aquia Creek Lane, which complicates life for residents of Student Apartments and Rogers and Whitetop.
“We got sent an email saying the construction would last three months, and everyone’s reaction seemed to be very frustrated because we were just moved to Whitetop from the Commons. And now they just cut off the main access point to the center of campus,” freshman government and international politics major Jake Kelley said. Noting that it now takes him an extra five to 10 minutes to walk to class in the morning, Kelley said he doesn’t understand why road construction can’t take place during the summer. Working on buildings like Science and Tech during the school year is one thing, but working on a road that cuts off access for hundreds during the year just doesn’t make sense.
Over the next five years, with space running out on the Fairfax campus and funds running dry, major expansion is likely to dwindle. The university needs to do a better job making construction less intrusive for students, faculty and staff during the academic year.
There could also be better communication to the university community on project timelines and construction updates. Construction is annoying, and some things could be done to make it less intrusive, but we get to reap the benefits of fancy new buildings and a university that is now on the world map.