KERNS: The mystery of the Master Plan



Bryan Kerns

All right, I’ll admit it – I’m a nerd. They say the first step is admitting you have a problem. So, I’ve admitted it – I have a problem. It stems from my love of all things bureaucratic. Yes, faithful readers, I am a sick individual.

Therefore, you can only imagine my delight last Friday morning when I opened up the University’s Web site and found myself distracted by the fact that, instead of the little “President’s Office” icon along the right-hand side, the words “Campus Master Plan” had appeared.

I clicked, and the next few hours were history. I’ll also admit a bit of a problem with procrastination, so I was delighted to be enveloped by 230 pages worth of reports leading directly to bureaucratic paradise.

What is the Campus Master Plan, you ask? Aren’t you glad that I took the time to read every last page of all three extensive reports?

It includes fancy graphics, technical data, maps, elevation charts, discussions with questions and answers, talk of problems and solutions, detailed explanation of opportunities and roadblocks, so on and so forth.

Essentially, the plan is the foundational document for all of the physical changes the University community can expect to see on this campus in the next generation and beyond.

Consider it the beginning of a material revolution that could include, but is not limited to, an expansion of student housing, a performing arts center, a reassignment of scores of offices and departments, gutting of entire buildings, construction of new buildings underground linking Dougherty Hall and Connelly Center, significant buildup on Lancaster Avenue from Pike Lot down to Spring Mill Road and possibly in Memorial Park across from South Campus and many other potential changes.

It is important to note that however likely these changes may be, as of now, they are simply “could happens.” The planning, when concluded, will have three phases. The first involves a major overview document, and the second deals much more with specifics and details. The final phase will be the Campus Master Plan recommendation to the Board of Trustees, which is expected in October 2008.

The supplemental reports that came and will come in the second phase are titled “Mission, Goals, Opportunities, Problems, Issues and Options Reports.” That mouthful is intended to convey the breadth of the planning process.

The planning that has occurred over the past year has been a clearly collaborative effort. In the introduction of the overview, the firm contracted to conduct the planning writes, “Our mandate, as we understand it, is to develop a plan rooted in a deep understanding of the institution’s history and mission, its opportunities and constraints and goals and objectives for its future – one that can help Villanova become more positively and cohesively what it is.”

The planning process has included input from committees consisting of administrators, faculty, staff and students on topics such as student experience, pedestrian encounter, academic mission, administrative services and teaching/research space.

It is evident from the reports that an enhanced degree of stakeholder involvement is important to those who put the process in motion.

Keeping that in mind, it is important to realize that we have been offered an opportunity to give our suggestions and comments, to offer our concerns and to have our questions answered about a pivotal time in the history of the University.

No timetable seems to have been applied to the implementation of the plan, and it will likely cost hundreds of millions of dollars to do everything it seeks to do, but make no mistake, each of us in the University community – me, you, your professor and the guy three doors down in your residence hall – has a stake in its success.

Read the reports, talk about them, find out what other people think, look at the graphics and see if what is envisioned in the Campus Master Plan is what you would envision if you had an unlimited budget and the ability to remake the Villanova University landscape.

Will everyone’s ideas be implemented? Hardly – but that doesn’t diminish our power in the process. The power of Villanova is something we’ve heard about in a commercial seen during basketball games. It’s time to use that power.

The plans are on the table, and the people in charge want to hear – your words will not fall on deaf ears.

Villanovans, talk about our future.


Bryan Kerns is a freshman honors major from Drexel Hill, Pa. He can be reached at [email protected].