Sunday, January 27, 2008

Culture on Campus?

Sure, it'd be great to have a dynamic, exciting, artistic, colorful, creative, and inventive vibe on the Wilf campus, but:
a. YU students are super-busy.
b. Campus architecture, design, and location foster a veritable tradition of cultural and creative paralysis.

Nonetheless, I can't imagine that the thousand-plus undergrads on campus lack enough funny, inventive, artsy, and willing members to recreate that "aura of cool" so inherent in the secular campus experience. No, if YU was a summer camp - or a typical university - these figures would combine to forge a fun, creative, and exciting place to be. If we can recognize and chip away at the two aforementioned issues, perhaps we can bring a bit of that self-expression and culture up to Amsterdam. We need easy, low-maintenance access to creativity that can change the architectural landscape of an otherwise beige-grey environment.

1. Take advantage of elevator space. Hang up an Ads-Free corkboard in each dorm elevator, where students can post whatever random things they like: pictures, interesting articles, top 10 ways you know you're in R. Rosensweig's shiur, comic strips, Halacha Yomit, etc. Put up a dry-erase board and see what emerges. The point: give YU students easy, time-efficient, right-in-front-of-me opportunities for self-expression.

2. Wall + Movie = Culture. Once a week, sometime between 10 pm and midnight, whip out a projector and play a film on the wall of a central, high-traffic area - say, the Morg lounge. Note the word "film" in place of "movie"- it should be the type that adds to the campus culture, not detracts from it. Granted, that's a subjective call, but I think Stu Halpern is both hip enough and aware enough to pull it off. True, few have time for a weekly flick, but most have fifteen minutes here and there to catch the end of a hockey game: lets put our ADD to good use! We can create a cultural vibe and fashion an enjoyable, thought provoking, and horizon-expanding opportunity.

3. Turn the lawn into The Lawn. As of now, our precious little green space goes to little actual or aesthetic use. How about a winding path, curving its way between patches of rose and statue: a bust of Belkin, a form of Lamm, a statue of the Rav, a quote from the Rambam, a poem from Ibn Ezra! Think that's too much? I'll settle for flowers, a fountain, and an inscription about Torah u-Madda.

4. Picture YU without pictures of YU. Photographs of YU students belong in brochures; on campus itself it is tacky and uninspiring. Public art should force us to stop, consider, maybe even smile- to think of anything but ourselves. Let's use those open spaces to construct a colorful, interesting, proud environment.

Monday, January 7, 2008

The Not-So-Great Lawn

Have you noticed that over the last couple of weeks our one patch of (real) grass has turned into a mud pit? The one vestige of natural beauty in our brick and asphalt campus is being destroyed!

Here's whats going on: every time someone decides to take a shortcut across the Danciger Quadrangle, he or she is contributing to something called soil compaction, which is slowly killing all the grass and increasing runoff. Hence, what used to be lawn becomes a mass of muddy footprints.

Here's what we can do about it:
1. Put up a “Don't walk on the grass” sign. This is a last resort because I think it goes against why the grass is there in the first place; grass is nature's carpet. We're dealing with a classic meitzar shehechziku bo rabim (BT Bava Batra 99b-100a).
2. Put up a “Please don't use the grass as a shortcut” sign. I know this one sounds a little unusual, but I think it can work. Use the lawn when you want to lie down and read a book, not when you're late for minyan.
3. Have a gardener come in and take care of it. I don't know the exact science, but the football stadiums don't seem to have any trouble keeping their fields nice and green even this late into the year.

If we ever want our grass to be greener than the other side's, we need to have grass in the first place. For now, spend the extra second-and-a-half and go around.