Group takes active role in opposing Lagoon plan

Janette Neuwahl

At its third meeting Wednesday night, the Northwestern Open Campus Coalition set forth a plan of action to galvanize student opposition to the Lagoon construction, including a rally at the Rebecca Crown Center on Tuesday.

“I hope that we will demonstrate the extent of student, staff and faculty interest in having a more active role in the decisions that shape the university,” said group member Neel Ahuja, a Weinberg senior. “I think we’ll send them the message that we are serious about that.”

The coalition has been gathering each night since their first meeting Sunday when they assembled at a member’s apartment. Student interest has since grown, as 11 people attended the Sunday meeting and about 20 appeared in Fisk Hall Wednesday.

The organization’s two goals, according to nominal coordinator Neil Helbraun, are to delay or stop Lagoon construction and to address the administration’s lack of regard for student input. They hope to bring the group’s concerns to administrators in a meeting before the rally.

“We want the full disclosure of why the university is doing this and why students were left out,” Helbraun said.

In order to accomplish its goals, the organization split into three subgroups in charge of researching student-administrator relationships at other universities, alerting the media about the group’s mission and conveying ideas to students.

Of the ideas proposed, some include creating a campus calendar counting down the days until Lagoon construction begins, making fliers that oppose the plan and organizing a sit-in at the Lagoon on the first day of construction.

“If it comes down to people putting themselves in rafts (in the Lagoon) to stop construction, some people will do that,” said Michael Surrago, a Weinberg freshman. “I’m hoping that this will be an issue to open dialogue with administrators for several years into the future. The issue (of the Lagoon) polarized us, but it doesn’t end with this.”

Group members came to meeting for various personal reasons. Patrick Murphy, a library staff member and environmental activist, said he has watched the administration disregard student views since he was an NU student in 1993.

“I have had the opportunity to be bothered by the total lack of partnership in the way in which the university makes decisions on things that affect the university community,” Murphy said. ” I hope we can use this issue as a springboard for campus democracy.”

To reach the wide audience opposed to the construction, Daniel Frommer, a Medill sophomore, created the group’s Web site,

“If (the administration is) really concerned about saving a lot of money with the bad economy now, I think it’s essential that they have a clear plan with which they can definitively say what they are going to do with that space,” Frommer said. “As far as land to build on, the only thing secure right now is that there is going to be a parking lot. There’s no funding for a pedestrian mall and we have no idea how long North or South Campus Drive is going to be there.”