It has been said that we learn about history so we do not repeat it, but it looks like MU is not learning much from what happened at University Village a few weeks ago.
This past week, MU released a report revealing that University Village should have been torn down years ago. In 2008, MU contracted Mackey Mitchell Architects to create the 2008 Graduate & Family Housing Master Plan for apartments owned by the Department of Residential Life. The report suggested that University Village be demolished. To quote the plan, “Renovation is not a reasonable alternative. The site is in a floodway, so new construction on this site is not desirable based on financial modeling of costs necessary for redevelopment at this site.” The numbers do not lie: University Village would have cost $15 million to renovate and $1 million to demolish. Since January 2009, $1 million in building maintenance requests were completed.
MU said there was a high demand for this type of housing, and ResLife decided to keep the apartments open. Structures like University Village were on the “to-do list” of more than $500 million in deferred maintenance project requests across campus.
As we said before, hindsight is 20/20, and we can holler all day about what could have and should have been done. But when it comes down to it: MU and ResLife should have examined this issue with more scrutiny. Unlike last time we wrote about University Village, this time we can squarely say the walkway collapse was preventable, and that is what is most unfortunate.
But, MU and ResLife, you have a chance to (sort of) redeem yourselves, or at least prove you learned from last time. The Student Parent Center needs to be moved. No questions asked. This is about the safety of children. We have already lost one member of our community. Let’s not put others at risk.
Do not let history repeat itself. It is not too late to move this day care center somewhere safer. Notice we said move, not get rid of. Student parents are already trying their hardest to pursue a degree while taking care of a family. If there is not anywhere else these student parents can take their kids for a comparable location or rate, the least MU can do is provide a safe place for children to stay during school hours.
We cannot urge you enough, MU and ResLife, that action must be taken sooner rather than later. Allow us to propose a hypothetical situation: Say University Village had burned down, and the charred remains were demolition-worthy. You would move everyone and the Student Parent Center out, right? So what, then, is different about the balcony collapse? The apartments are demolition-worthy now. Residents and the Student Parent Center need to be moved.
It might be different if these children and their families had a comparable daycare to attend. You evacuated some tenants, but you’re allowing the kids to come back day after day? Resident accounts said you knew the daycare’s building had structural issues in 2008, and the center is still in danger today, as we write. Kids pass daily under the walkways exactly like the one that collapsed. So do something. Crossing your fingers is not enough this time. This is an almost identical situation, except this time we know what’s coming. Do not let this pass you by.
MU and ResLife, it is time to make a hard decision. We understand that it is a difficult choice between repairing buildings where students learn and work daily, and decrepit buildings where fewer students live. We can sit around all day dreaming up solutions, but ultimately, MU and ResLife need to find the money to make this right. Lots of money was spent sending tenants to hotels. Why can’t funds be spent on day care for these kids?
Two MU students have started petitions on Change.org, one calling for the complete renovation or demolition of the complex and the other asking for the Student Parent Center to be moved — and rightfully so.
The bigger issue here is the lack of voice the tenants in these buildings have had. Student parents have to keep up with school, work and their family. It is hard to find time to pester management to complete maintenance requests. These students are trying to speak up, and MU and ResLife need to listen.
To the Graduate Professional Council, we ask that you to do a better job of advocating for students on this issue. GPC’s recent resolution didn’t make any revolutionary remarks; it simply backed up the actions that have already been taken. We encourage you to make your voice heard on this issue, loud and clear, GPC.
MU and ResLife, we know there are a lot of other buildings being renovated and other renovation projects on the list, but University Village needs to be a priority. We are talking about student parents and children here. Do not wait until the recently-installed supportive beams expire. Six months is not that much time to get things together anyway, especially if you plan on offering the same amount of accessible graduate housing (which we hope you will). So get on it.