Value at Drexel University can easily be determined by distance from the Main Building. Entities located far from the Main Building seem to fizzle out in relevance the farther they are located from the seat of power in this institution. And this past week, one more of these entities fell victim to this unfortunate phenomenon: the College of Computing and Informatics moved from its initial location at the Rush Building to 36th and Market Street.5` It’s a terrific, state-of-the-art building with all the bells and whistles needed for a successful computing college, but it sits in the center of the commercial Science Center building, several blocks from the center of campus. With this move, the college and its computer whizzes have perhaps been dealt a final blow to the periphery of student life at Drexel; they are now out of sight and have been cast out of mind.
One only needs to stand at the Perelman Plaza to see what is valued at Drexel. Programs such as business, engineering and the physical sciences enjoy a cozy relationship with power. Their buildings are conveniently located close to the core of the institution, physically and, by extension, psychologically. On the other short end of the stick, programs such as sociology, communication and athletics are cast into obscure “garden level” broom closets and fields on 43rd and “where is that?” that remain foreign to a large subset of Drexel students. There does not seem to be an effort to foster a cohesive campus environment, and this shows in the diminished level of engagement in the school.
Our counterparts at the University of Pennsylvania seem to be succeeding where we have failed. It is not an oddity to see elements of campus life integrated into daily life at the campus. Greek houses are nestled between lecture halls on Locust Walk. Franklin Field is located right on campus, making it a resource not only for student athletes but also the occasional soccer enthusiast. Dining Halls are located within a stone throw distance of libraries. Such careful planning highlights the sense of community that the university considers in its acquisitions and allocations, a sense that is clearly lacking at Drexel.
Most students agree that being off-campus makes them feel isolated and out of touch with the Drexel community. Many programs at the university already push students out of campus. Co-ops move students away from the goings-on for six months. And with the increasing student population, some students are opting for off-campus living arrangements that drive them even farther from campus. And now, the university seems to cast its students haphazardly into far off spaces for classes. In the process, many students will undoubtedly feel that being associated with the Drexel University name is a mere formality and not the lived-in experience they bargained for upon matriculation.
Distance undoubtedly correlates heavily with how one is engaged on campus. Some spaces rarely receive any foot traction because there is no incentive to rein in these spaces as a part of the campus community. If Drexel keeps dotting Philadelphia’s map with random classroom locations, we will surely lose the importance of community. Indubitably, all the spaces, such as the Quad, that the university pours millions into creating will service the very same students taking classes at Lebow, the Papadakis Integrated Sciences Building, and Bossone. The rest is an afterthought.