Students should feel grateful for campus construction

Construction clangs away on the Lower Quad, reminding pedestrians how different the campus landscape will look in just two years.

Once completed, the Anderson Athletic Center will be easier on the eyes that the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center. (Zack Thielke/TommieMedia)
Once completed, the Anderson Athletic Center will be easier on the eyes than the O'Shaughnessy Educational Center. (Zack Thielke/TommieMedia)

With ambitious building plans and a $500 million capital campaign amidst annual tuition hikes, six-figure salaries for university administrators, obscenely high on-campus housing prices and numerous examples of wasteful administrative spending, it’s understandable that some students feel gouged out of money by the university.

I’ve worked three January Terms calling alumni and parents for money in St. Thomas’ phone center and all three years we had the lowest or second-lowest percentage of alumni donations of any school in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.

If I called anyone reading this article, I’m sorry for bothering you. It’s not fun for student workers either, but it did give me a lot of perspective on why many people dislike St. Thomas and why our alumni giving rate is so low. Dissatisfaction over the price of a St. Thomas degree as well as administrative decisions were both popular answers.

While one can take issue with the way St. Thomas handles money, I don’t view the Anderson Student Center and the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex as net losses for students. They will benefit Tommies for decades and I personally think they’re long overdue.

For years, St. Thomas’ leadership channeled construction dollars to building McNeely Hall, the three other campuses or upperclassmen apartments. But these new facilities will benefit all undergraduate St. Thomas students, not just the handful that travel to Owatonna or Rome.

Our buildings have an impressive architectural style on a compact campus, both traits I approve of, but the Modernist eyesores of O’Shaughnessy Education Center and the Murray-Herrick Campus Center blight St. Thomas’ otherwise-stately Lower Quad. And while we are stuck with both for the foreseeable future, upgrading the student center was a gesture I’m glad our administration made.

Murray-Herrick Campus Center is still functional and probably decades away from demolition talk, but it has no business being one of the most important buildings at a school as big and influential as St. Thomas.

I wouldn’t feel honest referring to the Blue Lagoon as a student union and our cafeteria’s kitchen was built for a much smaller student body. The mail room interior is how I imagine government offices looked in 1983.

As for athletics, O’Shaughnessy Hall was built back when men were expected to wear hats in public.

The pool is too small to hold meets in and some of the equipment in McCarthy Gym looks like it was salvaged from the Titanic. Our swimmers and other athletes deserve better, especially our many student athletes who rank among Division III’s elite.

Change and growth are healthy and I think these new projects should be welcomed. With one caveat: I can’t approve of graduating at the Metrodome unless we’re allowed to run the bases after commencement. Seriously, that site easily ranks in my top five least favorite St. Thomas decisions from my time here and I’m a Twins fan.

I graduate in May, so I won’t get to enjoy either the new athletic complex or student center. But it doesn’t really bother me, because more future Tommies will be able to enjoy campus amenities in line with what the school charges. Better late than never, I suppose.

Zack Thielke can be reached at

4 Replies to “Students should feel grateful for campus construction”

  1. I am grateful that we have long-sighted students such as Zack who are thinking of those who will follow them and realize that what we’re doing is for the benefit of the students. Thank you for such a supportive article. I hope you will come back as an alumnus to see and use the results of your “phone calling.” Thanks again for taking the time to put it all in perspective.

  2. Zack- This is a great article. You are so articulate and I agree with everything from the OEC eyesore to the disappointment with the Metrodome decision. Nice job!!!!

  3. I don’t understand what the fuss is over having graduation in the Metrodome… I just graduated at the RiverCentre today and it was great. The entire thing was VERY well done, and didn’t feel any different than i’d expect from an on-campus graduation. I’ll admit, the metrodome isn’t great, but UST rented out the freakin’ METRODOME for you people to graduate in!  I think , instead of trying to argue this further, i’d like input from someone who’s actually graduating this spring…. where would you RATHER have graduation be held? UST isn’t an option because of construction, so I want you to play president for a moment here and tell me a location that’d be better…. (keep in mind , you only need to find seating for about this many people- )

  4. Zack, you’re the man! I love your writing, it definitely rises above the rest. Keep up the great work!

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