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Brief musings on the new landscaping development

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The new landscaping developments outside of the Dining Commons. Picture by Will Camillo.

The new landscaping developments outside of the Dining Commons. Picture by Will Camillo.

By Joe D’Amore

There is a lot to be said about the recent landscaping development outside the Commons. The last few weeks, as I walked around the old bend, I have heard a mix of surprise, confusion, approval and disgust from fellow students. For those who do not yet know how to feel about the new look, an evaluation is in order.

First of all, to state the obvious: we are not stupid, we know this is a passive aggressive message from the College to stop trailblazing the off-road hypotenuse of the walking path. If the excessive shrubbery was not enough to make this point, then the severe granite pillars and black chain fence drove it home beyond all subtlety.

Now, I will concede that the crisis of mulch being tracked all the way to the doors of the Commons was becoming a bit of an epidemic. But might not a polite sign have been sufficient? Probably not, actually, but are the small white rocks in the center a wisely chosen substitution? I give it a couple weeks before someone sprains an ankle on one of those bad boys that will be kicked onto the pavement.

My other beef with the College blocking off our most beloved shortcut is more political than practical. It might be a small change, but we should not overlook the totalitarian aspect of the new barrier. Taking the not-so-short shortcut used to be a tradition of rebellion that many of us partook in with a sense of solidarity. But now, whenever I walk over the bridge from Duffy, I feel like we are being forced to march to the beat of an oppressor’s drum, shepherded away like so many livestock on an Orwellian farm.

However, there is much to be said in defense of the development. The triangular patch, for instance, is particularly tasteful. A Japanese red maple centerpiece punctuates a dark brown, stone-bordered mulch patch lightly planted with understated purple and yellow flowers. It certainly beats the miserable smattering of dirt and grass that we used to stomp on with justified indifference.

That being said, there is still the timing issue. We like the pretty flowers, but the temperature is dropping quickly and they are going to die in a few weeks. After that, the patch will have been mercilessly pummeled by snow. One is tempted to wonder whether, instead of a gift given in apology for the curtailing of liberties, the beautification of the triangular patch is an ironic twist of cruelty: “Do you like these wonderful things?” it seems to say. “Well, now you get to watch them die.”

So, my evaluation of the development can be summarized as follows: cheers for the aesthetic achievements and some functional improvements, but demerits for the fascist undertones.

At the end of the day, though, I do not expect any outrage about the disorienting changes to last long. In fact, I am sure, by the springtime, when the snow melts and the garden gets to show off all its glory, we will actually come to love the space. So, here is poignant farewell to the old, and a bitter but nonetheless open-minded hello to the new.

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