Letter From The President: The Campus Master Plan

in Opinion by
Zoe Vermeer | The Clarion
The following was written by Bethel’s student body president, Zoe Vermeer. The views in it are Vermeer’s only and do not necessarily align with those of The Clarion.

Nine months ago I was asked to join the Campus Master Plan (CMP) Steering Committee as the College of Arts & Sciences student representative. Walking into the first meeting, I had little understanding of the CMP and how it would affect the Bethel undergraduate student experience. As I sat in meetings over the next few months, my eyes were opened to the reality that administration planned to move some of CAS over to the Anderson Center (ANC).

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At first, I was hesitant. One of the things I love most about Bethel is the small campus feel- the fact that all academic buildings are connected. I feared how moving part of CAS to the ANC would affect students’ academic experience and the community that is had here. Many within this community share these fears. In response to this fear, Dean and CAS Vice President Deb Sullivan-Trainor created a plan that housed all of CAS on the 3900 campus. This plan proved that yes, we can keep all of CAS on 3900 (we are doing it now), however we greatly sacrifice much our current space needs and limit our ability to grow. The 3900 Bethel Campus is quickly running out of space and the facilities Bethel provides are sub-par. Bethel provides high-quality academics, however the facilities we have do not match the quality of our programs. Maybe the ANC could be the solution to addressing these needs.

I soon began to see the possibilities of having more “third spaces” and “makerspaces”–places outside the classroom where students can engage in what they are learning. I became excited at the possibility of having a department home–a solidified place where I can be in community with my professors and other students within my major. My hope is that out of the CMP, departments would feel more cohesive. My hope is that Bethel would have more spaces conducive to learning outside of the classroom–rooms where students could study together, or places where majors could congregate and simply study near a professor’s office.

With all of that being said, the reality is, moving any aspect of CAS to the ANC would be challenging. Over the last six weeks, the CMP has changed several times, demonstrating the difficulties of this move.

As discussions regarding the Anderson Center continue, numerous variables must be remembered: (1) we are here for a high-quality education. Is this happening now? Yes. However, are we limiting ourselves on the quality of education Bethel offers because of our space needs? Can we utilize the ANC to enhance our academics? (2) Central to the Bethel experience is a liberal arts education. In discussing how to house CAS in two locations, liberal arts must have an emphasis on both campuses. (3) Bethel currently has strong community. As a student, there are plenty of opportunities for community: within majors, in residence halls, and in extracurriculars whether that be athletics, the music department, or various leadership positions. Moving forward, we must keep these avenues of community in our vision and seek to understand how the CMP affects, for better or worse, the community life at Bethel.

Many across the campus have shared their frustrations regarding the CMP process. Some of these frustrations are justified and the CMP Steering Committee has not been flawless through the entirety of the project. However, this process has continued to remind me that Bethel is led by God-serving individuals who care deeply about the future of this university. This process has not been easy and many people have voiced their frustrations at the Steering Committees miss-steps. Yet the leadership involved in this process has taken all obstacles and opposition with grace and humility, and pushed forward in making decisions that will positively impact the future of this university.

As I leave you with my thoughts, I have one call to the Bethel Student Body: be active and engaged in the CMP moving forward. I understand the apathy that arises when discussions circle around things that may not a ect you during your time here at Bethel. But your opinion matters. You know this university and the experience it provides for its students. Help us to move Bethel to being the Christ- centered university of choice for this century.

 

 

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