On September 29th, 2014 the College Council deliberated on a proposal for a walkway between Madison Lane and Rugby Road. The brick pathway would be aesthetically congruous with the rest of the University, improve the safety of a notoriously dangerous route, and commemorate individuals and organizations through engraved bricks. Abraham Axler and Chris Collins spearheaded the project, seeking assistance from the city of Charlottesville, the University and Student Council. This pathway is a student priority, as is evidenced by its prevalence on Speak Up UVA and a recent Charlottesville WikiMap transportation project. Working for their fellow students, Axler and Collins were determined to succeed, but they needed funding. When it became clear that other potential funding sources were unwilling to support the project or were mired in legal and operational efficiency issues, they turned to the College Council to champion their cause.
When Axler and Collins presented their funding request before College Council, we had three concerns as a Council. Firstly, we believed that this was a problem for Phi Kappa Psi or the Inter Fraternity Council to handle. However, Axler and Collins proved that it was actually an overarching student concern. Creating a safer pathway has been an extremely popular idea on Speak Up UVa, the University’s online feedback and idea forum. Additionally, the proposed route is marked in red on the City of Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Master Plan Update 2014 as a route that people want to ride and walk. Combined with overwhelming student testimonials, College Council ultimately determined that this was indeed a significant enough student need and interest to consider funding.
The route for the proposed pathway is in the vicinity of Greek houses, but it is also near the Drama building, the Architecture school, Madison House, other student housing, and many other frequently accessed spaces. Additionally, although Axler and Collins approached the nearby fraternities about the land in question, none of them agreed to fund a walkway along this glass-ridden, treacherous path on which students have broken limbs. According to Axler, the University also denied to invest the time and energy into addressing this student concern since it is not located on University property. Unfortunately, when Collins initially presented the proposal before Student Council’s representative body, it came across as a Greek life issue as opposed to a student issue and concern. As such, the idea was extremely polarizing and alienated a good portion of the Council, which resulted in a denial of funding.
The second concern was whether this project should be the responsibility of College Council, since it will not solely benefit students in the College of Arts & Sciences, which is who we represent. However, since the majority of undergraduate students at the University are in the College, sheer numbers express that the majority of students who use this path will be in the College. Likewise, the path leads to College student housing, as well as College academic buildings such as the Fralin Museum of Art, Fayerweather Hall, the Fine Arts Library, and Culbreth Hall. As such, while the path will also help Architecture students get to Campbell Hall, it will largely serve College students. Furthermore, the Council ultimately decided that it does not matter if the path does not exclusively serve College students because the safety of all students is paramount.
The third concern of College Council was the implementation and upkeep of the path. We agreed to fund the path only if ample lighting is available along the route. We also expressed our wish for the path to eventually be handicapped-accessible. As of now, this is not a viable option because of insupportable costs, the narrowness of the path, and property line violations that would arise with an the implementation of an expanded handicapped-accessible ramp. The second part of this concern was maintenance. When deciding to fund, we considered the question of who would be responsible for upkeep of the path, since different groups own different parts of the relevant land. College Council hopes that by shouldering the initial costs of the path it will signal to the University and community that this is a significant student concern. This should encourage the University, Phi Kappa Psi, and other nearby groups to pick up the project as its own. The College Council is fronting the money for the walkway to ensure progress be made, ideally before the winter months, but hopefully organizations around grounds will contribute to the project and take ownership of its future. Phi Kappa Psi has already agreed to maintain the path.
To help diffuse the costs currently borne by the College Council and to encourage the project to become a community endeavor for students in all schools, we presented the idea of a memorial brick campaign. Students, professors, CIOs, fraternities and sororities, and any other group on grounds will be able to purchase a brick (or bricks) in honor of someone or something. Each brick will be engraved and installed on the path to honor loved ones. We are already organizing the project and will publish details soon!
While Council members remained split on the funding decision, a pivotal factor proved to be the Council’s budget surplus. Due to the Council’s frugality in recent years, it has accrued a significant amount of funds. However, if the surplus is not spent in the next few years, it will be reallocated. In light of our financial situation, the Council decided to support funding the walkway.
The College Council continues to seek projects to better the lives of College students. Due to our surplus but unchanging annual budget in the long term, projects with small ongoing expenses are preferable, even if they have high initial costs. If you have a plan to improve College life, please share your idea with us!