Dept. of Good Stewardship: Student Housing or Trees & Houses

by Jordan

FIJI House in the 1930s. An elegant building.

The current administration, willingly subverting itself to student demands of apartment housing and perhaps in the name of progress itself, seems to have set itself on slapping a couple of boxlike apartments on the back of the historic and unique house.

A friend of mine who works for the University dug up these photos of Denison from the 30s to the 60s… and I figured it’s an appropriate time as any to see from whence we came and to where we’re going.

As a school Denison does have one thing going for it: history. It has been a place where young men (and since the 20s and 30s) women have gone to learn how to grow comfortable with power and money. Three fraternity houses are especially powerful examples: the houses of Beta, Sigma Chi, and FIJI.

As I look around the campus, there is so much worth preserving and so little of it is being preserved. The school seems desperate to foment “community” and yet it shortchanges the physical spaces that all of this community necessarily happens in. This is not to say Denison has been entirely derelict in its treatment of the campus: Bryant is a useful, well-designed building. But that seems to be the exception, not the rule. Maybe trees just don’t foster community like open space does?

Trees on the Quad 1930s

Another look at the FIJI House. Notice the well tended hedges, now gone.

And to as casual observer, this would be true. But Denison hasn’t shown great fidelity in maintaining the charming and authentic parts of the campus. Chapel Walk around Swasey is no longer real brick; the railings on Bryant Morgan Arts Center are aluminum, instead of cast iron. Denison is not a cheap school. It is not a cheap campus. And preserving it cannot be done cheaply.