A paved walkway cuts through the lawn of Hartshorn Health
Service, connecting to the street at 90-degree angle.
Conversely, a worn dirt path crosses the lawn at a diagonal,
created by students shaving a few seconds off of their walk.
The Occupational Therapy Building complies with the needs of
handicapped individuals with a ramped entry. However, the parking
is in front of the building, while the ramp entrance is at the
Although design issues such as these may not regularly receive
much attention, the growing field of campus ecology is seeking to
change the way campuses are viewed.
“Campus ecology is the study of how students and campus
environments fit together,” said James Banning, a pioneer in the
field and a professor in the School of Education. “We look at
things like walkways, buildings, lighting and furniture
Analyzing campus environments
Banning began researching campus environments in 1973 and has
since been invited to analyze more than 60 campuses in the United
States and Canada. Armed with a list of evaluation criteria, a
camera and a critical eye, Banning spends a few days wandering
through each campus.
When walking through CSU’s campus, Banning has snapped pictures
of empty bike racks, noting their poor placement. Before the school
offered recycling services, he photographed a pile of empty cans
and plastic bottles next to a trash can outside of Morgan Library
to explain the students’ desire to recycle.
In the past, Banning has worked with the University Parking
Services to “get rid of dumb signs.” He also worked with the
architects when the library was redone after the flood of 1997.
When asked about the current state of his home campus, Banning
initially reacted with hesitation and then a sigh.
“There are a number of issues Facilities Management has to deal
with. The No. 1 complaint is always parking,” he said. “Then there
are major problems in relationship to wheelchairs.”
Senior economics major Tim Albrecht’s biggest problem with CSU
was its appearance.
“They should beautify the area,” he said. “I’d spend more time
on campus if there were trees and benches on the Plaza … and
maybe a waterfall.”
Despite the recurring issues, Banning said there has been a
remarkable aesthetic improvement of the college grounds over the
past five years.
“They have added interesting features like sculpture,” he said,
“and there are at least three new water features.”
Student involvement in the planning process
Banning makes a point to chat with students every time he
“It’s critically important if you’re going to make changes in a
physical or social environment that you consider the opinions of
the people living in that space,” he said.
Banning said although student input is not considered often
enough, certain areas of campus do consider students’ opinions in
the planning process.
“The Lory Student Center does a great job because students are
so involved there,” Banning said. “But generally campuses have a
hard time making sure students are using the space. They need
opportunities to evaluate the campus through surveys, committees
and Web site feedback.”
Banning also said past and future students might have valuable
“Graduates of CSU could tell us what worked and what didn’t,” he
said. “And high school students could tell us what they’re into and
what they expect.”
Senior art history major Nicole Ellsworth offered some critical
insight about the functionality of two CSU buildings.
“I hate Eddy (Hall). It’s too crowded,” she said. “It’s the door
issue. In Clark (Building) people know which doors to go out of and
which to come in. In Eddy everyone tries to use the same doors and
it’s like a traffic jam.”
Despite Ellworth’s criticisms, she likes the CSU
“I enjoy the overall way the campus is set up and the flow of
things,” she said. “I like the library. It’s nice that they have
group study rooms.”
Advice and follow-up
After Banning photographs and analyzes a university’s campus, he
presents his findings and recommendations to a college board. It is
then up to the administration to follow up on his findings.
At CSU, the campus planners in Facilities Management handle such
“The whole thing is a balance,” said John Desch, who does campus
planning with Facilities Management, of the planning process.
Planners try to solicit as much outside opinion as possible, he
said, but everyone has different priorities. The planners consider
everything from academics and technology to sustainability and
maintenance, he said.
Banning has not worked extensively with CSU, but he said that at
some colleges his suggestions have not been well received.
“Sometimes it becomes controversial and I don’t get invited
back,” he said with a shrug and a smile, noting that campuses do
not always want to know what they’re doing wrong.
Banning may also be called on to evaluate a university’s Web
site, determining if it is representative of the student
population. On one site, he found only two photographs of women:
one posing with her graduating husband and the other working in
food service. After pointing out the university was discriminating
against women, he did not get invited back, he said.