Opinion: the continued expansion of lower campus is beneficial to Franciscan’s community

By Mia Brounstein

For Franciscan students whose college experience included COVID, the words “lower campus” evoke unpleasant flashbacks: long hours of solitude, bag lunches and Lord’s Days seen through a window.

To this day, it seems that some students still regard lower campus as a kind of social quarantine-zone, a distant land far from the hustle and bustle of upper campus. In fact, with plans in the works for the further development of lower campus, many students are once again dusting off the familiar argument that lower campus is actually bad for Franciscan’s community.

At face value, I can understand this argument. After all, upper campus is a tight-knit community, with few places being more than a ten-minute walk away from any other location on the hill.

It’s easy to get around and not hard to run into friends everywhere you go. If you have downtime between classes, your room is never far away, and between the Caf and the Pub, food is almost always conveniently close.

In spite of all this, I believe that the further development of Franciscan’s lower campus is both ultimately beneficial to the University at large and has the potential to promote stronger community for all of campus.

For one thing, lower campus promotes community by providing more “hangout spaces” further from the nucleus of campus.

For students living on upper campus, particularly those without cars, it can be easy to feel bored or trapped from studying and socializing in the same places every day. Having dorms and hangout spaces that are removed from the high-traffic areas that students frequent daily, like the J.C. Williams Center, can help alleviate this restlessness.

In addition, Franciscan’s plans to build pickleball courts, hammocking spaces and more near Casey Hall and in Franciscan Square will further help to build out lower campus and give all students access to a greater variety of spaces for fellowship.

Additionally, I don’t think we can really discuss the positive impact that lower campus continues to have at Franciscan without noting the fact that lower campus dorms have increased Franciscan’s capacity to house male students by over 300 individuals.

This is a huge number, and it’s hard to really quantify what a difference it makes. In any case, it seems clear that lower campus has enabled men living on campus to have a stronger and larger community, in addition to providing a place for more men’s households to form and grow.

Finally, and perhaps most controversially, I think that the continued expansion of lower campus is good for Franciscan’s community because it brings us closer to Steubenville itself.

Oftentimes, life on our little hill creates the illusion that we are somewhat removed from the city of Steubenville. This isn’t inherently a bad thing, but I think we can often use it as an excuse to not associate with our neighbors in town.

The further expansion of lower campus brings the Franciscan community nearer to town physically, and the further development of shared spaces like Franciscan Square gives us all an opportunity to intentionally grow in community with the residents of Steubenville, something we should have been doing already.

To conclude, in this writer’s opinion, the benefits provided by lower campus far outweigh the downfalls. Lower campus truly enriches Franciscan’s community, even if it forces us to remember a few more dorm names.