Years back, there was a somewhat overrated, but compelling hit song that spoke of "paving paradise" and replacing them with parking lots. Today, the University of New Mexico takes a step further towards being the kind of institution that does just that.
I'm referring to the school's recent decision to raze a nearly 100-year-old pump structure off Central and Yale to add to the area's already aggressively expansive parking superstructure. Granted, an old and somewhat dilapidated pump building isn't exactly "paradise", but it will certainly be taken down, paved, and made into yet another expression of the "free market," where students and visitors can fork over more of their money for the benefit of the private companies that make these electronic "pay stations."
All the while, the more real need for a sustainable transportation grid around the region will further go ignored.
In the midst of an ongoing political battle for the preservation of the Chaco Canyon, the much smaller scale but similarly themed destruction of this historic building spells out a troubling problem at UNM and New Mexico as a whole — our society's penchant for callously wiping out antiquity for the sake of momentary and unsustainable "needs", decided and determined by interests not in line with those you'd assume a university would strive to protect.
Case in point, numerous students and faculty members have already voiced that this little piece of the school's history could be effectively maintained as a coffee shop. And such would certainly be more beneficial to most students walking through the area daily, most of which aren't going to be parking right where the pump station is located.
Someone reading this may ask themselves why a decades old pump station is even the slightest bit worth working up a fuss over. Isn't it just an out of commission utility building that happens to be very old? Yes, a similar argument could be made for a great number of structures throughout the campus, including statues, trees, fountains, and even buildings owned by our social science and liberal arts departments, which in recent years have also fallen victim to the attitude that in today's consumer & tech driven world, only parts of the campus that benefit STEM and big business are worth preserving and improving.
As this kind decision making becomes the norm, who's to stop UNM from clearing out more antique places for more parking lots as the "need" further encroaches? At present, the outlook doesn't look good. This is supposed to be an institution of learning, but in recent times it's feeling far too much more like a prolonged advertisement venue. So long as we're willing to hurl cranes and beams into our own history for convenience, rather than work around and preserve, we will be sending classes of students on their merry way without them having learned a thing about when to expand for our needs, and when to act with restraint.