By Sydney Shaw
Student Government moved into debate at the general body meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 10, regarding the possible reallocation of funds.
Ceceilia O’Callaghan, director of planning and administration for student affairs, asked on behalf of Vice President of student affairs Amy Hecht what students would rather see on campus first — wireless Internet installed in the Travers and Wolfe Halls, or “closing the loop” by extending the existing sidewalk there.
“When the College was building the Education Building (in 2012), that project came in under cost,” said David Muha, associate vice president for communications, marketing and brand management at the College. “Some of the savings were able to be redirected to critical campus infrastructure needs, which included both underground utility projects as well as wireless.”
But according to Hecht, administrators wondered if students found other issues on campus more urgent than the lack of Wi-Fi.
“I asked them a hypothetical question about what students would prioritize,” Hecht said. “If we could only do one project, or had to choose which to do first, what would they choose?”
“This does not mean both of these things should not be done,” O’Callaghan said. “It means there is not enough money for both to be accomplished this year.”
The wireless project is proving to be more costly than anticipated.
“The original budget was $2 million, but the cost and quantity of access points was greater than expected,” Muha said. “I don’t have a current estimate of how much additional (funding) is needed to complete the project.”
Members argued about which project they would prefer to see put into action first.
“As an avid runner, I know how difficult it is to safely run the loop. I’ve nearly been hit by a car multiple times,” sophomore class secretary Julia Livesey said. “Only having a sidewalk around half of the loop is dangerous, especially for those running near construction sites on campus where it’s difficult to see around the bend.”
Vice President of administration and finance Kyle Holland said that according to Hecht, in the past three years, three individuals have been hit by vehicles while walking or running the loop.
That statistic was reiterated by several pro-sidewalk members throughout the remainder of the debate.
According to Campus Police records since January 2011, only one pedestrian has been hit by a vehicle on Metzger Drive.
“That was on Nov. 26 of last year,” Muha said. “The accident occurred in front of Phelps. The victim was not in a crosswalk.”
Muha added that there are a number of reports of pedestrians and cyclists being hit on campus, but mostly in parking lots. The majority of the injuries are minor.
“There are no reports of joggers being hit that we can find,” he said.
Sophomore class council president Robert Kinloch argued that some individuals prefer to run in the street, making a complete sidewalk less necessary than wireless internet.
“Wi-Fi will help freshmen academically,” he added. “Students won’t have to leave their room to work in the library or in the Travers/Wolfe lounge.”
Senator of humanities and social sciences Joseph DiCarlo also weighed in.
“The need for Wi-Fi in the Towers is so extreme, it’s not even funny,” he said. “When we recruit people to one of the premiere institutions in the Northeast and then admit that we don’t have Wi-Fi for almost 1,200 students, it’s just embarrassing.”
Sophomore class treasurer Levi Klinger-Christiansen, who voted in favor of closing the loop, put it simply by saying, “Safety is greater than convenience.”
With the recent renovations and demolitions of several buildings on campus, some members wondered if installing wireless routers in the towers would be worth it if they were scheduled to be replaced in the near-future.
“The Towers are here to stay,” O’Callaghan said, putting rumors to rest. “There is no plan to take them down.”
Twenty-eight members voted in favor of closing the loop while only seventeen voted for making the Towers wireless. There were two abstentions.
“This is in preliminary works, so nothing is being decided right now,” Student Government President Matthew Wells emphasized. “We are waiting for more information. We will revisit this and vote again once we know how much the projected cost for each project is.”