Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Students and officials clash at Lagoon forum

Top-level administrators met with concerned students and community residents Tuesday night to clear up misunderstandings about Lagoon construction plans, but audience members said they saw the flawed decision-making process as the main issue needing to be addressed.

Students complained about the secrecy behind the plan to Senior Vice President for Business and Finance Eugene Sunshine, Vice President for Facilities Management Ron Nayler and Vice President for Student Affairs William Banis.

“In retrospect, I feel it’s important for me on behalf of the administration to apologize,” Sunshine said. “We could have done better.”

Despite the apology, many of the 100 people at the Associated Student Government-sponsored forum said the disregard for student opinion was a bigger problem than the Lagoon construction itself.

“It’s a galvanizing issue,” said Aidan Leonard, a Medill senior. “It’s something that students are using as an example of an issue that is bigger than the four acres of the Lagoon.”

Repeatedly during the meeting in Norris University Center’s Ohio State room, Sunshine said development plans like the construction on four of the Lagoon’s 19 acres are the responsibility of the Board of Trustees and certain administrators.

“Had you had the opportunity for input, it probably wouldn’t have made much of a difference,” Sunshine said.

But many in the room snickered when Sunshine said administrators listen to students in many other areas of university policy.

“(University President Henry Bienen) likes to say, ‘This is not a democracy,” Sunshine said. “I hope that those in this room, primarily the students, don’t jump to the conclusion that the lack of communication on this particular issue is indicative of the way the Bienen administration, myself included, deals with students.”

Although most students in attendance said they weren’t satisfied by administrators’ explanations, some said they appreciated the opportunity for open dialogue.

“It was productive in that students were able to get out a lot of issues that were frustrating them,” said Neel Ahuja, a Weinberg senior.

But if administrators improved communication with students, they would not face such opposition to their decisions, said Weinberg junior Lisa Zelljadt.

“I don’t think Sunshine really cares that much if we’re informed or not,” Zelljadt said. “He just cares that we support the end decision. That wouldn’t have been a problem if we had been informed.”

Logistical issues prevented administrators from telling students about the plan earlier, Sunshine said. In addition to taking advantage of lower construction costs during a soft economy, building on the Lagoon must be completed by June 1 so it can be used to cool water that flows into the lake during the summer months.

“There wasn’t a conscious decision made not to include student input,” Sunshine said. “There wasn’t a vote that said, ‘All that want to be quiet about this, raise your hand.'”

But there wasn’t a conscious decision to ask for student input either, said Evan North, who is starting a campus group to improve communication between students and administrators.

“The administration is failing to see a major issue, which is student insight into even capital projects is crucial,” said North, a Medill sophomore.

Medill sophomore Kim Mosser said she

didn’t necessarily disagree with plans to build on part of the Lagoon, but that she was shocked to hear administrators were moving forward on the project so quickly.

“I was angrier when I left than when I came in,” Mosser said. “I didn’t understand how final this was in their minds. I’m not going to protest any kind of building project, I’m going to protest an unfair administration and inadequate communication.”

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Students and officials clash at Lagoon forum