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Construction and Progress

By Benjamin St. Peter

Electrical and Computer Engineering Department

My co-worker liked to talk about the cherry tree outside her window in Knowles Hall. It was a pleasure working with this tree in view every day, its branches swaying in the breeze, especially as the closest thing to a breeze in Knowles is a loud, quaking air duct system.

“They chopped down my cherry tree,” she told us one morning.  Hewn trees and uprooted bushes were piled outside. A similar landscaping decision was implemented last year. A group of mature pines and maples, whose shade I had enjoyed in previous summers, was removed to make way for a patch of dirt and a few barrowloads of cedar chips.

The symptoms of progress felt all over campus are reminiscent of what happened at The University of Maine shortly before I completed my undergraduate degree. It was disappointing when the building where I’d worked and taken most of my classes was half razed as part of an expansion project. This was also the building where, before my time, my grandfather had had an office and where my mother would study.

As I watch the construction happening on campus during my last semester as a graduate student, I remember the construction at UMaine during my last semester as an undergraduate. It seemed as though footholds below me were disappearing before new handholds could present themselves. Watching the landscape being flattened through the window of my building at UMaine, I thought of how my girlfriend would wait for me beside those trees in the springtime, sometimes with one of their blossoming branches in her hair. Those slain trees of ten years ago were the same type of Japanese cherry whose stumps are outside Knowles today.

Somewhere in the mire of academic business and politics is the key to understanding why our school is a construction zone. Maybe, all things considered, it’s for the best. The imagery of those heaps of dead trees with shiny buds that would never unfurl — it somehow calls my attention to the idea that it’s time to move on.

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