UF is planning for a lot of changes in the coming years. Earlier this month, students found out about the $2.2 billion expansion and projects planned by administrators. These include an expanded honors program residential space, a new student healthcare facility and turning Union Road and parts of Newell Drive into pedestrian walkways. Although these changes sound appealing, I have some thoughts on them.
The expanded honors college is long overdue. Anecdotal reports I’ve heard have said while the early class registration offered by the honors program is a big benefit, there is otherwise little distinction between the honors program and the traditional college track. Under this plan, a new UF Honors College Complex would include 1,400 beds, a 27,000-foot social and learning space, and a 50,000-foot common area with a library, honors program offices, and study and meeting rooms. This space would provide more services to honors students, making their experience distinct from the regular UF track.
A new and expanded Student Health Care Center is also planned for the southwest part of UF’s campus near the baseball facilities, which would replace the current infirmary on Fletcher Drive. A larger healthcare facility for an increased student population seems like a great idea. On the other hand, the current infirmary location is near the center of campus. The new location would be closer to dorms like Springs and Lakeside, but residents of the other dorms will have to travel farther to get on-campus healthcare.
Lastly, we have the pedestrianizing of Union Road and the stretch of Newell Drive around Turlington. At first, I thought this was a great idea. Cars and students around this stretch of road seem to have a mutually harmful relationship. Students crowd sidewalks, and drivers often have to wait several minutes while students cross at traffic-light-free crosswalks.
But the buses along this stretch play a key role in transporting students to and from class. Where will the buses go once Newell is pedestrianized? If they’re rerouted, will this new route be convenient to students? These are questions that should be answered before moving forward.
While I still have concerns about some of these projects, I have to admit the choices administrators made came from necessity in most cases. These projects won’t even start until 2023, long after I and many of my readers graduate. There’s plenty of time to cheer on UF’s plans as the administrators hope to bring our school into top five status, but there’s also time to ask questions and wonder what impact these changes will have.
Jason Zappulla is a UF history senior. His column appears on Tuesdays.