It’s no secret that Elon University is continually advancing its facilities and resources. Noise from construction projects has become almost as expected and understood as the whistling sound of the train passing by.
As Elon receives national attention via recognition from top names like Forbes and The Princeton Review, as well as donations as grand as $12 million, there’s no better time than the present to enhance its amenities. But I worry that the administration, donors, current students and likely prospective students are like kids in a candy store, placing too much priority on these enhancements.
New additions, such as the expansion of the School of Communications, the apartments at Park Place, a new convocation center and a wider variety of dining options in McEwen are posing as Snickers, Swedish Fish and those overwhelmingly large lollipops. These grand facilities make for a glamorous campus, but they are not worth it if it means sacrificing Elon’s distinctive culture.
After asking students around campus what makes Elon unique, it seems that its traditions are of great meaning to those who call it home. It’s a relatively small school that provides opportunities comparable to large institutions. Elon’s unique traditions, such as College Coffee, the acorn and oak sapling tradition and the annual Festival of Lights remain ever so present and allow students to roam around campus with a sense of familiarity.
Graduation Under the Oaks is the light at the end of the tunnel of Elon, and is imagined with loved ones celebrating alongside of graduates. Construction has not ruined the location as a whole, but it limited the number of tickets students could get, causing commencement to be moved to in front of Alamance. This situation is for the greater good, as the buildings will be appreciated by numerous students to come, but comes at a cost to those who have appreciated Elon before its newly recognized glamour.
The same goes for its continually increasing incoming class. There are more students than there are campus mailboxes. First-years have infiltrated living areas historically designated for older students. Some students are even being encouraged to move off-campus for the 2016-2017 academic year. Elon does manage to host those who decline this offer, but this situation hints that Elon may be thinking about their potential for expansion before the conditions of their current students.
The concern is not that the new academic buildings, updated technology and larger campus will eliminate our beloved traditions, but rather where the school’s priorities lie. If making headlines and increasing its recognition is the goal, Elon’s future seems very bright. But Elon would not be where it is today without its loyal followers. Donations derive from alumni who admired Elon prior to the Inman Admissions Welcome Center, the Global Neighborhood and even Belk Library.
Jane Austen once said, “Money can only buy happiness where there is nothing else to give it.” For now, Elon’s culture and values remain prominent enough to foster happiness among students. So build away, Elon, but don’t forget those who loved you when your hottest items were Charleston Chews and Mary Janes.