Editorial: Reexamining Waterfront Motivations

Exciting plans may be in the works for Washington College: a waterfront campus, complete with a new boathouse and a multipurpose building.

Yes, this idea shines on paper. It’s a great recruiting tool for academics and athletics alike. But what if we’re letting this gleaming possibility blind us to the reality?

Let’s first think about the actual land we’re placing this dream on. We’re spending $1.2- 1.5 million to clean up the soil because it’s contaminated with toxaphene, arsenic, chrominium, and PAHs. The plan is to remove the contaminated soil, cover it with fabric, and top it with “clean” soil. Does anything about that process sound unnatural to you readers? It’s sad that we need to clean up the soil to begin with, but it seems like we’re simply covering up a glaring problem to suit our development plans.

Moving on even bigger dollar signs, the new boathouse construction is estimated to cost $5 million dollars, and the main building for $20 million dollars. Most of this money will be raised via a capital campaign, meaning it doesn’t come out of the school’s existing budget, but there are still innumerable ways to spend that money otherwise.

What about faculty raises, or even better, getting rid of faculty paycuts? Or maybe building up budgets for student clubs and publications?

Now, the Chester River is an invaluable asset to our campus, and our proximity to it creates tremendous possibilities for student and faculty research, athletics, and social events. And others are stating that this would be a great way to connect more with the town. But do we need a physical presence to connect with Chestertown? The town-gown relation strain is an issue with attitudes, and it won’t be solved by accessorizing the Chester River with yet another building.

And are we doing this simply because we need a defining, almost bragging, aspect for our school? If we’re searching for something that makes us unique, look around at the student body that lives on this campus now, not at a development goal off in the future. We have so many talented students on this campus, incredible faculty, and fantastic brand-new facilities to boot. The Elm greatly admires any effort that WC puts forth to improve a student’s experience and expand the breadth of learning. But the motivation for the waterfront campus seems to be misplaced. Maybe if we stop caring so much about what we see in the mirror, then we can stop and appreciate what’s already there.

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