May 042004
 
Authors: Mackenzie Bartels

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

side.

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

arrangements.”

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

travels.

“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

input.

“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

environment.

“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

requests.

“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.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.