Baruch's Vertical Campus

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When the new building opened on Monday, August 28, the moment was in some ways a culmination in addition to a beginning: a culmination of four-plus years of planning and construction and the culmination, too, of a wild weekend of last minute labor and preparations. While not every single room (nor the three floors below ground, to house the athletic facility and the performing arts center) was completed, all the basics were in place, and Day 1 of the Vertical Campus, which will transform the life of Baruch College, went off more smoothly than almost anyone could have hoped.

Such events are significant markers in the history of an institution, particularly when the outside world takes official notice. And take notice it did. The first week saw stories about the new building in The New York Times and the New York Daily News, as well as on television (WABC-TV, Eyewitness News) - and all the verdicts were positive. "College Goes High-Rise," the Daily News blared. "The six-block trek between classes that once wore through student soles has shrunk to a mere elevator ride, now that Baruch's new 17-floor, $319 million 'vertical campus' is open for business." (Not to mention what might happen to students' souls as well.)

In the Times, history professor and chair Cyntia Whittaker was reported to have promised President Ned Regan some decent champagne if the building opened on time and successfully; by the time Day One was over, the Times said, she had coughed up - not literally -- a magnum of Taittinger. The President, before the Taittinger was delivered, was on hand (as he and many, many others had been through most of the weekend) early in the morning, sporting his "All the Right Moves" blue T-shirt and helping students and faculty find their way across a new terrain. On the lobby floor near 24th Street, the new campus bookstore was doing a heavy day of business.

The best quote of the day came from Professer Whittaker, not about chamagne but about aspirations, pride and respect: What she liked best about the Vertical Campus, she told the Times, "is that now we have a building worthy of our students."

To employ a metaphor still appropriate as the building is being finished, Professor Whittaker hit the nail squarely on the head.