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Don’t let Campus Center rot

By Cassandra Nava, Managing Editor

Photo by Jeremy Ruiz/Valley Star

Monuments once sacred to the infrastructure of the college should be revered, handled with care and upkeep. Traditional architectural structures tie humanity to the past. According to the college’s first Master Plan from 2002, there was a great significance placed on the aspect of community on campus. The placement of each tree, building and student mattered to the flourishing college landscape.


With every passing decade, Valley College’s Campus Center becomes more of a treasured antique.


Society’s throw away culture, the idea of wanting new and more has its pros and cons. On Valley’s campus, the deteriorating bungalows are demolished to make room for new state of the art buildings. These new structures, with their sustainability models and fresh technology prove to be beneficial to students. But why so quick to be out with the old?


A building like Campus Center, as crime-ridden as it is, is worth cobbling back together. We must keep it alive and flourishing for the next generation.


Let us revisit the good, the bad and yes, the ugly parts of the Campus Center.


 

CRIME WAVE CRASHES IN SPRING


On April 29, there was a reported break-in to the 51-year-old building. Someone appeared to

be living in a room on the second floor, as five separate offices were broken into. The loiterer forced their way into the building.


Unluckily for the perpetrator, the campus was not alone that morning, as the chairperson for the theater and dance department, Jennifer Read was there to set up for Middletown rehearsal — the college’s upcoming play. Read’s early morning presence may have scared him, as he ran away from the empty building. He left behind various tools and a heavy stench of body odor, leaving sheriffs to believe that he had been cooped up in a room for a number of days.


“We got to do something on campus, especially with this building and Academic and Career Advancement, the Allied Health and Sciences and the new Valley and Academic Cultural Center building — because as our buildings get bigger, it's going to be more difficult to secure them and keep our students safe,” said Read following her encounter with the criminal.


As if the center had not been violated enough, this was only the second offense in the spring semester.

Valley College maintenance workers pump water out of the flooded east tunnel at the Central Plant on Wednesday night, March 1. The eastern tunnel carries water and electricity to numerous buildings on the east side of campus. The deluge has caused an electricity outage for most of the campus' facilities. (Griffin O'Rourke/Valley Star)

If April showers bring May flowers, then March floods bring… power outages. Heavy rain poured throughout the state, leaving cities without power. So when about half of Valley’s campus went dark, many hypothesized it had to do with the torrential downpours, but Campus Center was to blame for the disruption. The ‘70s era building suffered a flood in the basement which damaged the alpha data center —interrupting internet, network and telephone service in at least 16 buildings. The flood was not due to external circumstances, but rather by a PVC pipe coupling bursting open; a repeat offender that caused a flooded basement just three years ago.


 

A LONG RAP SHEET


The flood of fall 2020 was one riddled with consequences. About 250,000 gallons of water flooded the basement after a six-inch pipe burst. Luckily, students were busy in a quarantine lockdown, so there was little to no direct interruption.


But in the semester that followed, trace amounts of asbestos were found in the adhesive between floor tiling. This caused the entire building to go dark, as it was closed off until deemed safe for student use.


The basement was broken into in the last weeks of the fall 2021 semester, while it was still closed off. Media arts department stored cameras, lights and computers — at a combined value of around six-figures — in the basement, but nothing appeared to be stolen. Tarps separating asbestos-ridden areas were torn down, disrupting the asbestos cleaning project.


Campus security upped the ante, doing their best to field off any other infringements to the building and basement. But in February 2022, crafty thieves stole copper piping located on the exterior of the center which was used for the air conditioning unit.


Despite the onslaught of hurdles thrown its way, Campus Center persevered.


The first floor of the center, now known as the Mosaic Village or Unity Center, was finally able to open its doors in the fall 2022 semester. After being derailed by first COVID-19, and then asbestos following the basement flood, a ribbon cutting reminded Monarchs the value of community.


“I think it’s really important that this space is here and students are finding a sense of belonging in a community because we have a space for them,” said Cecilia Cruz, acting associate dean of student equity. “Before, there wasn’t really a Rainbow Pride Center where students could hang out with their other friends who also identify as LGBTQIA+. It’s giving them an opportunity to interact more and get support from the programs.”


The snipping of the green ribbon meant more than just a new trove for student resources, it showcased the importance of repairing something that easily could’ve stayed boarded up for good.


 

HALL HOSTS MONARCHS


Within Campus Center’s layout rests Monarch Hall, a unique multipurpose room whose orientation allows for a variety of events due to its unique architecture. The flat floor seating and stage give the room a chameleon-like property, able to morph into whatever is needed for an event. The hall has been converted to everything from a polling place, to a lecture hall and a blood donation center.


A plethora of events have taken place in the once vacant hall. There was a fiery Dia de Los Muertos dance performance last fall, multiple ASU events and most recently a Denim Day event.


The hall was even incorporated into the Valley Theatre Department’s play last fall: “The Laramie Project.” Director Matthew McCray came up with an inventive way to display the performance despite not having a stage and theater. Campus Center as a whole was the stage, as performers ushered audience members throughout the building to follow the true story of the 1998 homophobic murder of Matthew Shepard. Cast members floated around the center, making stops in Monarch Hall, the Monarch Patio and even the hallways.

Students perform in "The Laramie Project" in various rooms throughout Campus Center last fall. (Griffin O'Rourke/Valley Star)

The department’s next performance, slated for later this semester, will once again take place in the center. Without a theater to call home, Monarch thespians are utilizing the older building as their stage.


The thread that ties the community together is seen in the events hosted in Campus Center. Students and locals near the college can flock there, knowing that on any given week, an inclusive event will be in session.

 

UNIQUE ARCHITECTURE


Modern buildings like the Administration and Career Advancement or the Student Services Center are indicative of modern architecture trends.


Trends come and go, and the minimalist look of gray, one-note buildings will show a lack of historical significance. Campus Center oozes character, with its mid century modern-esque decorative facades and unique layout.


Campus Center glues the college and the community together; ushering in students to a shared communal place, whether that be a guest speaker in Monarch Hall, or finding solace in the Unity Center’s inclusive area.


Despite its aging architecture sticking out like a sore thumb amid the ever-changing campus, the charm of buildings like Campus Center are required. In order for students to strive for growth, the historical reminder of the thousands of Monarchs who have come before them is necessary.


 

GOLDEN MONARCHY


In a practice dating back to 15th century Japan, artists practiced a craft known as kintsugi, which translates to golden joinery. The artist will repair broken pottery by joining the pieces together with a gold or platinum colored lacquer. The importance of the original creation and repair are equal in value, as the technique honors the pottery’s journey while maintaining its original intended use. Mistakes are not only highlighted, but almost assertive in nature.


Similar care should be taken to Campus Center. The college should embrace its flaws. Its withering security is a threat to the architecture that has become rare compared to its newer counterparts. The center has many wounds in need of repair, and while the process of joining the pieces back together will be an arduous one, it is necessary in order to see the campus persevere.


The easy way out would be to partake in the commonplace notion of throw away culture. Board up the building or demolish it. With newer ones on the way, would anyone really care?


But we must treasure what we have now, for the harder option is often the most rewarding. Let’s keep the fragile bowl that is Campus Center, and meld it together. The golden joinery will not come from lacquer we line the building with, but will be evident with the consistent refurbishments to the building — highlighting the flaws while utilizing the purpose of Campus Center.


The extra work and care will leave the building shining, an opulent reminder of Valley’s once flourishing campus. And the monument is not just a reminder of where we came from, but of what’s possible for those who come next.


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