Hunt Library lighting changes campus image, needed student feedback

After 50 years of existence, Hunt Library has become an important landmark on the Carnegie Mellon campus. It can be seen across the Cut from Forbes Avenue and across the Mall from Doherty and Wean halls. Few students can spend a day on campus without seeing Hunt’s distinctive aluminum façade. The library has therefore become an integral part of Carnegie Mellon, and its appearance reflects on the rest of the campus as well.

In celebration of the library’s milestone birthday, the building will be receiving additional external lighting similar to that on the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge (see “Hunt Library turns 50, receives exterior lighting in celebration” from the Oct. 25 edition). While the dual purpose of a birthday celebration and increased night lighting is admirable, we still question the process that the university has used while developing these changes.

Changing the appearance of Hunt Library at the request of the Hunt Foundation is tantamount to changing the appearance of campus; in making such an important decision, why was no large-scale student feedback solicited? This new exterior lighting is set to be installed in less than a month, but its appearance is still a mystery to the campus at large. What is it going to look like? What color will the lighting be? How will the lights be arranged? The only clue students have is that the lighting will resemble the LEDs lighting up the Randy Pausch Bridge. And if this is the case, do students really want the view of campus at night to be dominated by a rainbow-colored Hunt Library?

Another important consideration is economic cost. Are the new LED fixtures cost-efficient? While we understand that the Hunt Foundation is providing funds for the new exterior lighting, is the donation — and the money that will be spent on future electricity bills — being put to the best use? Could the Hunts have found a use for their money to help another part of campus? And furthermore, does this new lighting support our transition to a greener campus?

All of these are essential questions to consider, but what’s even more important is making the answers known to the campus community. Changing the face of campus is not a trivial decision, and it definitely should not be done without students having both information and the opportunity to contribute.