Next week, work will begin on Harvard Campus Services’ latest project—the paving of part of the Malkin Athletic Center Quadrangle to create more parking spaces. In reaction to the loss of approximately 4,000-square feet of the Quad, over 500 students have signed an online petition asking Campus Services to halt their plans. Much of the opposition stems from residents of nearby Houses who cherish “one of the nicest green open spaces on campus” and from club sports teams, such as the Harvard Horntails Quidditch team, that use the Quad as a practice field.
Despite the concerns, it is clear in examining the details of the Campus Services’ plans that the scheduled work will not significantly hurt students’ ability to use the space recreationally or even competitively; in fact, the landscaping change may even prove to be an improvement in the long-term. However, this issue symbolizes the larger trend of differing priorities between the administration and students, and the lack of emphasis that the administration has placed on student input.
The landscaping aims to increase the utility of the Quad without severely compromising the green space. Though the online petition claimed that a third of the MAC Quad would be paved, Campus Service in fact intends to convert only a tenth of the Quad into eighteen parking spaces for senior faculty members. This proposed extension of the existing parking lot would convert the steep slope that currently exists on the edge of the Quad, rather than the flat grassy land in the middle. The slope as it currently exists is barely suitable for sports or social events. Moreover, after increasing parking spaces, Campus Services also plans to re-grade the Quad so that it is less prone to flooding—an issue that has prevented its use in the past—and add new sidewalks, lighting, bike racks, and sidewalks to improve accessibility. In short, though the planned work will undoubtedly be inconvenient over the coming months, the long-term effects of adding the new parking space may end up substantially improving the state of the Quad.
Nevertheless, the reaction of students—and the discontent expressed by residents of nearby houses—demonstrates the recurring issue of the administration ignoring student concerns in its decision-making. The MAC Quad is a shared space used primarily by various students and student groups; altering its landscape is a matter of direct consequences to the undergraduates at the College. It would have been judicious to collect student feedback before moving ahead with the plans.
It is unfortunate that Campus Services' plan was kept away from students only to be discovered through rumors. The petitioners make a good point that the biggest problem with the landscaping is the secrecy with which it was planned. And while the current plan bodes well for the future of the MAC Quad, the responses voiced against it highlight the necessity for the administration to solicit student feedback in its projects. This incident underscores the need for the administration to be more communicative with students—they too deserve a say in the future of their university.
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