FutureVU townhall focuses on timeline of upcoming initiatives

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FutureVU townhall focuses on timeline of upcoming initiatives

Rachel Friedman, Campus Editor

VSG and Vice Chancellor Eric Kopstain hosted a town hall Wed. March 28 regarding FutureVU, the University’s land use plan that includes changes to the residential college structure and campus spaces.

The land use plan is “tethered” to the Academic Strategic Plan released in 2013 regarding broader plans for Vanderbilt’s undergraduate experience, Kopstain said. Launched in 2015, the land use plan focuses on implementing changes to improve the landscape on campus, expand residential colleges and implement other forms of changes to update and beautify spaces and transportation systems on campus.

“The most important things to realize are that we want to have a beautiful, sustainable campus that embraces our goal of having a world class undergraduate, residential education,” Kopstain said. “[We want to] find out opportunities to use these land use initiatives to intersect with the academic and research aspirations of our faculty and projects that our students are working on.”

The first implementation of the program is the opening of E. Bronson Residential College next fall, which will have a dining hall open to all students. Other upcoming changes include renovations to the Nursing School and Divinity school, which should be finished in the next 6-8 months, Kopstain said.

Another major initiative begins this summer with the construction taking place on Greek row. The Lambda Chi Alpha house, currently occupied by Delta Tau Delta, will be demolished this summer, and the construction for a new Zeta Tau Alpha house and National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) house will also begin, due to be finished by fall 2019. Other house demolitions and reconstructions will follow, including those of Delta Kappa Epsilon and Kappa Sigma.

The plan also includes replacing the roads on Greek row with limited-access roads and more greenery. This will remove the current parking at the Greek organizations’ houses after the 2018 fall semester, a proposal that has faced opposition from members of the houses.

“There’s already been some backlash and there will probably be more, but I think we’re trying to do it equanimously. Why should the Greek organizations be entitled to restricted parking right next to their organizations when the rest of students do not?” Kopstain said. “I think it’s absolutely fair and the right thing to do for the campus and the community.”

While this plan does sacrifice some parking space, Kopstain does not think this presents an issue for the future, as Vanderbilt already has 22,000 spots on campus. It may mean, however, that people will have to park farther from their desired destination than they may please, he said.

Further, he hopes to counterbalance the decreased parking spots with fewer students parking on campus. To ensure student safety and affordability in transportation, administration is considering a number of options to promote students having easy access to transportation without use of a personal vehicle, including increased shuttle routes and times and a rideshare partnership with Lyft.

“I’ve been working through a contract with Lyft to establish a partnership with Lyft that would be beneficial with the students, the faculty and the staff,” Kopstain said. “I’d like to have these things in place very shortly, even before graduation. Certainly by fall.”

One concern addressed at the meeting was that the efforts to decrease student use of personal cars would increase the “bubble” effect of the Vanderbilt campus. Kopstain said that in addition to a number of university sponsored transportation systems, such as expanded shuttles and rideshare programs, the university is embracing access to Nashville in its plans and will continue to promote student access to amenities off campus.

“We live in kind of a history museum in many ways here in Nashville, and I encourage everybody to continue to get out there safely, and frankly, I would rather have students getting around the city in ways other than their own single occupancy vehicles,” he said. “Our intent is not to create an insular bubble where students don’t get out of campus, and that kind of thinking I think is even permeating into a lot of curriculum at Vanderbilt. There are increasing number of opportunities for students to find opportunities to apply their areas of study beyond the boundaries of campus. There’s not a secret attempt to kind of nestle everybody here.”

While increased transportation options available to students are expected to be released soon, in the more distant future is the development of 3 Residential Colleges, labeled as A, B and C. A will be completed in 2020, and the other two are set to be finished by 2023. Residential College A is set to have a tall tower component that will house multi-purpose spaces as well as housing for prominent alumni and other visitors on campus.

These changes are among many other renovations scheduled for the years to come. You can read more about the full FutureVU plan here.

VSG, the sponsor for the town hall, has been involved with the formation of FutureVU since the beginning of the program, organizing forums to connect student opinion to the administration, said Towers 3 and 4 Senator Pat Timmins. Through events like the town hall, VSG seeks to continue to connect the progress and plans of the initiative to the students.

“We want to make sure that the student voice is incorporated in this and that any changes that come forward are keeping students in mind, with recognition for the fact that there will be a transition period,” Speaker of the Senate Molly Gupta said.

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