HAWKEYE P.O.V. – Community losing natatorium debate

ULM Hawkeye

Debate on the natatorium issue is really starting to heat up now that plans for both renovating and re-tasking the debilitated building have been presented. As the University family, both students and the community, prepare to move forward, the Save the Natatorium cause should reassess their approach because right now they are losing this fight.

So far the group has been very one-sided in its approach, repeatedly citing how keeping the building benefits them. Over and over we’ve heard “What about swimming competitions the city could hold?” or “What about senior citizens who could use it for rehab and exercise?” Several comments on the Facebook group talk about swimming lessons for young children. More still talk about the nostalgia the building holds for them because they used it when they were kids.

The glaring problem in this approach is that a key demographic is being completely overlooked or at the very best minimized. That demographic is the students who are paying for the building.

What about the students? Why should the 7,980 students continue to pay for a building they don’t use so that 20 students and a handful of community members with ideas of how the building might be used in the future can keep it? Or a better question: Why should they pay to renovate it?

At the meeting Monday, several members of the community expressed downright indignation at the very idea that a bunch of college kids should decide what’s best for their own campus. They berated President Bruno with question after question about why the students and not the community are deciding this issue.

The students sat and patiently watched the community’s presentation, and then with equal patience and consideration, they watched architect Nick Middleton’s presentation. They questioned both presenters on things such as funding, feasibility and usage.

The community members loved the YMCA’s presentation but made it very clear they hated Middleton’s renderings. They interrupted Middleton on several occasions. When his talk was over, they shouted out things like “I don’t like it” and “I’ll never support something like that.” They came up with insightful questions like, “Don’t you think a fence along the bayou would be ugly?”

Based on the behaviors at the meeting, who behaved more like rational adults: the college students who considered all possibilities and asked tough questions or the community who attacked anyone saying something slightly out of line with what they want?

Members of the community need to realize ULM’s students are not children. We are adults capable of making tough decisions. We are adults capable of deciding what is best for our campus. We are adults who understand funding issues apparently better than many of the “mature” people in the audience Monday.

The time for sob stories about the past are over. Community: If you want to win this fight, you need to give us facts, figures and sustainability. Prove to us that the financial burden will not be totally levied on us. Convince us through evidence, not emotion, that a natatorium is best for this campus.

But more importantly than any of that, you need to start treating us with respect. If the behavior in Monday’s meeting is any indication of how the rest of this debate will play out, you will alienate all of the people you need.

If you continue to behave like children while treating us, the students, like children, you will definitely lose your fight.