Friday, August 28, 2009

Once Every Twenty Years or So

Welcome or Welcome Back!!

The college experience for the members of the Class of 2013 began this week with a beautiful, near picture-postcard-perfect, bright, sunny day. Hopefully, everything is going well for them (or you) and that they (or you) have begun to successfully find their (or your) way around campus.

If you are new or even if you are not so new (welcome to my world), if you have found your way to this blog, you know (or have just discovered) that UIC is in the midst of a Campus Master Planning process.

The last time we had such a process, the members of this year’s freshman class (the newest future members of the Alumni Association) were not even a faint twinkle in their parents’ eyes. That’s because the last one was about twenty years ago. These things don’t happen all the time and hundreds of thousands of students come and go between Campus Master Plans. BUT, EVERYONE who is lucky enough to be on campus at this point in time has the opportunity to be a part of this historic Master Planning effort.

The consultant team has begun to delineate concepts of what they think would make sense for the UIC of the future, both in the long term and in the short term. What do you think about…

* A fountain in the Quad (that big space in the midst of the Lecture Centers)?
* A greener, less-concrete aforementioned Quad?
* Having more evergreens on campus to add color to the winter months?
* Replacing at least some of the concrete benches with ones that are less… well… concrete?
* Getting rid of all “surface parking” (read parking lots) and increasing the amount of "structured parking” (read parking garages)?
* Relocating the Student Services functions from the far corner of the East Side of campus to some place like Taylor and Morgan?
* Establishing a gateway to the West Side of campus of some sort at Taylor and Ashland?
* Creating “greenways” (read a pedestrian park which connects green spaces) to enhance the sense of place (e.g., from MBRB west to Damen – with minor breaks through NPI and COMRB)?
* Demolishing BSB and our University Hall? (Did that get your attention?)

You and you and you too have the enviable chance to influence what YOUR campus could evolve into over the next twenty years or so.

(Please note the dates and times of the upcoming Phase II Town Hall Meetings that are listed at the end of this posting)

Master Planning cannot be a spectator sport. Come and voice your opinion at the Town Halls that are coming right up. This is your chance to get involved and have your voice heard.

Until next Friday…

Phase II Town Hall Meetings

East Side – Wednesday, September 9, 1:30 – 3:30 PM
Student Services Building, Conference Rooms B & C

West Side – Thursday, September 10, 10 AM – Noon
Molecular Biology Research Building Auditorium

The objectives for these Town Hall Meetings are to:

1. Present alternative land use and development plan concepts being generated by our consultants.

2. Solicit comments and suggestions about how to plan for future development and site improvements.

Friday, August 21, 2009

One Tree is Nice

One Tree is Nice is a children’s book by Janice May Udry. In the HarperCollins webpage on the book, the author explains that trees are very nice, but even one tree is nice if it is the only one you happen to have.

The page goes on to say that Ms. Udry is also the author of Thump and Plunk.

“First Thump thumps Plunk. Then Plunk plunks Thump. So Thump thumps Plunk back. Will Thump and Plunk ever stop thumping and plunking each other?”

I kept wondering why the umpires didn’t throw them both out of the game…But I digress.

If, as this author asserts, one tree is nice, are two trees twice as nice and three trees thrice as nice? (Thay that five times fast.)

And while we’re on the subject, how many trees does it take to make a forest? Hundreds? A thousand? What about FIVE thousand?

Can it still be called a forest if there are buildings there? What about roads? Sure. Our National Forests have both things in them. The University of California at Santa Cruz (UCSC) was built in the midst of a redwood forest. It’s got both buildings and roads in it, too. (By the way, the team mascot for UCSC, is an inhabitant of said forest – the Banana Slug.)

UIC has a few trees on its campus too. A few hundred maybe? Actually, according to the most recent count, there are 5,021 (!) trees on campus (3,224 on the East Side and 1,797 on the West Side). More than 20% of them are Honeylocust, but over 80 different varieties are represented.

Others might find it surprising to discover there are six Tree of Heaven trees here at UIC. Not I. (Take that, you Banana Slugs!)

Five thousand trees on this campus!! This place is already greener than we often give it credit for. Perhaps we can’t see our forest for the trees.

Perhaps even with five thousand trees, we need more which retain their green year round. This is one of the ideas being considered by the Master Plan consultants.

See? Trees and Flames can coexist quite nicely, even at a big city campus like UIC.

Until next Friday…


Phase II Town Hall Meetings

East Side – Wednesday, September 9, 1:30 – 3:30 PM
Student Services Building, Conference Rooms B & C

West Side – Thursday, September 10, 10 AM – Noon
Molecular Biology Research Building Auditorium

Friday, August 14, 2009

Pick of the Litter

Phase II Town Hall Meetings

East Side – Wednesday, September 9, 1:30 – 3:30 PM
Student Services Building, Conference Rooms B & C

West Side – Thursday, September 10, 10 AM – Noon
Molecular Biology Research Building Auditorium

I am one of four sons who were born over the span of three decades – the ‘40’s, ‘50’s and (just barely) ‘60’s. I hope my wife would agree with me that I am the “pick of the litter”. For my brothers’ sakes, I also hope she would have three other wives who would respectfully beg to disagree.

Search “pick of the litter” on the Internet and you get a wide spectrum of results. The first page on a “bing” search (Google is sooo 2008) gave me everything from the fifth album of the Scottish rock group Wolfstone to an animal welfare organization in Longview, Texas to a doggie obedience training school in South King County to a mobile, door-to-door pet care provider (“we specialize in providing beneficial exercise, socialization, and stimulating playtime for your canine” – those lucky dogs).

Perhaps the most on-the-nose use of the phrase goes to Pick of the Litter, a company offering “high quality…dog waste removal services.”

UIC has adopted “World Class Education. World Class City” as a tag-line for itself. The Campus Master Planning process is attempting to ensure that the campus itself is also world class.

However, no matter what is done to the landscape or to the buildings through the Master Plan, this will never be the campus environment it could be and that we all hope it will be if we don’t each do our part in keeping it clean and tidy. We need to take some individual responsibility to pick up the litter that blows around this Windy City university.

There are 890 (!) of those round, concrete trash bins around the grounds. (I must pass at least ten of them on my two-block walk to the L station.) There are even more of us – roughly 25,000 students and 12,000 faculty and staff. If we each picked up just one (but go for more if you want) page of a newspaper or runaway napkin or discarded Styrofoam cup or whatever each day as we traverse OUR walkways and parking lots, we could keep those trash barrels full and the campus litter-free.

I am also reminded that if the litter you pick up is a can or a bottle, the recycling bins inside all our buildings would be an even better temporary resting place than the trash bins.

So, be the Pick of the Litter and we will all enjoy the campus more today as well the future.
As with all these blogs, these are the musings of the author. Please feel free to comment whether you agree with the above or have a different thought on the subject.

Until next Friday…

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Go West, Young Man

“Go West, young man and grow with the country.” This directive was originally used in an editorial in the Terre Haute Express written by John B. L. Soule in 1851, but is often credited to Horace Greeley who used part of it in an editorial in 1865. “Go West Young Man” was also the title of a 1936 Paramount Pictures feature film starring…who else?...Mae West.

But what if you’re a young man (to keep the analogy going) on the East Side of UIC and are told to go to Student Center West. You hop on the ubiquitous white intercampus shuttle bus on Halsted directly outside Student Center East that’s heading south. According to the online route map, this unfortunate soul got on at Bus Stop Location M.

Some faculty and staff members may remember how The Kingston Trio described a similar situation faced by a man named Charlie on the MTA subway in Boston:

Well, did he ever return? No, he never returned and his fate is still unknown. Poor Charlie. He may ride forever ‘neath the streets of Boston. He’s the man who never returned.

But I digress…

Our young man’s bus crosses Taylor and stops twice (Bus Stops N and O) before crossing Roosevelt. It hits Stops P and Q before Maxwell and then R at the corner of 16th and Halsted. After heading west on 16th Street, the bus turns north onto Morgan and makes a stop at 14th Place (S), then one at the UIC Police Station (T) before continuing north past Roosevelt.

Before you get too far ahead of me, let me caution that Bus Stops U, V, W, X, Y, or Z do not exist. For some reason, the UIC shuttle system alphabet has only 20 letters. Unfortunately, it is alpha-numeric and has 46 stops. Having completed the UIC shuttle system alphabet, our bus now comes to a halt at Bus Stop 1 across from the Physical Plant Building and then turns right onto Taylor. After a stop at SES (2), it’s time to cross the Dan Ryan Expressway. WHAT??

Yes. Bus Stop 3 is the Chemical Engineering Building and every shuttle bus during the day (except the semester express) goes there on every circuit of the campus. This involves going east on Taylor, north on Jefferson, south on Clinton, and west on Taylor, before heading north on Halsted.

OK. I admit it. Our young man could have walked across Halsted at the start of his journey west and skipped the aforementioned 12 stops. In addition, he could also get off at Bus Stop 12 at Paulina and Polk and walk a block and save another 16 stops.

The campus maintains this circuitous route to ensure everyone can get to wherever they need to go whether it’s the Student Services Building at Racine and Harrison (Westbound Stop H and Eastbound Stop 8), the Jewel/Osco at Paulina and Roosevelt (Stop 14) or the residences and commercial locations on the South Campus (previously mentioned P, Q, and R Stops). But is this overkill?

Would a more direct routing provide more reliable and quicker service? Would less stops and shorter times foment greater interaction between the two sides of campus? If it only took 15 minutes to get to the other side, would more people utilize the bus system thereby reducing the need for cars that routinely take people back and forth for meetings?

The Semester Express Bus takes such a route. It has only 13 stops, goes along Halsted and Harrison Streets, and loops once around Maxwell and once around the West Side. I would have to walk a block or two to catch it. Even I could manage that.

One question for the Campus Master Planners is how far are the folks at UIC willing to walk to catch a bus. OK. Tell us.

Until next Friday…