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October 06, 2008

Hill Section Residents Up in Arms over Champlain College’s Construction of Mailbox

Author's Note: This writing is entirely satirical and is presented to note the growing disparity between a college's needs and the residential community's wishes.

Burlington, VT—Residents of Burlington’s Hill section held a meeting Tuesday night to discuss the economic and social implications of Champlain College’s construction of a three-foot-tall, one-foot wide mailbox on the intersection of Maple and South Willard streets.

Residents first voiced their concern that the construction would lead to an increase in foot and bicycle traffic, creating even more slow-moving congestion in the student and resident-filled area. Shelby Walker, a mother of three, feels like she’s “Living near a college, not in a pleasant, student-free neighborhood with gentle breezes, elementary school children riding bicycles and residents picnicking daily in the back sections of their minivans and SUVs.” Though the college had already occupied more than 30 buildings by June of 2000, when Walker purchased her house on South Willard Street, she finds it upsetting that “it just isn’t the country setting I remember when I first moved.” She continued, arguing that “things have changed and it needs to stop before it spirals out of control and people start to become irrational.”

This feud continues the battle between residents and the College. In the past residents have taken the College to the Vermont Supreme Court, and have also attempted to block the construction of residence halls, and the acquisition of new buildings. Champlain shot back at the residents' view of the mailbox in a statement by President David Finney, who remarked that “Champlain’s need to receive mail from all corners of the world is well-documented, and critical to our continuing goal of receiving letters from students, parents of students, business contacts, government agencies, scholarly journals, paychecks, and also letters from concerned residents of the community we occupy.”

Members of the community first caught wind of construction when Maple Street resident Bobby LaClair heard hammering across from his house. “I looked outside and there it was! A guy in jeans and overalls hammering a plank of wood into the ground and then attaching an opening and closing box to the top of the plank. And frankly, the red arm thingy is an eyesore to the neighborhood. It's driving down the value of my house. And the nerve of them building it at 1 P.M. I’m outraged.”

LaClair reportedly knocked door-to-door around the neighborhood later that day and organized the meeting, where 23 residents attended. To date, the residents of the community have contested every major and minor building project the college has proposed in the last ten years. The college has responded by proposing a residential quad in Winooski to fill 1,200 beds for the community members that are upset with the state of the neighborhood.

Christina Berdick shared similar sentiments to LaClair, wondering what community benefits could possibly come from a college, and now a mailbox in the area. “Sure, aside from having a few thousand individuals spurring the local economy, an increase in community service initiatives, an educated workforce, a 24-hour security force patrolling the neighborhood, new innovative ideas from diverse people and the possibility of Vermont businesses staying in Vermont, I just can’t see how this helps us on the Hill. And what do they need mailboxes for? Don't they have e-mail? Get with it Champlain!”

Residents are also planning to demolish Edmunds Elementary and Middle Schools, with some members of the community decrying that the students’ “constant foot stomping, rambunctious playground behavior, shrilling voices and perpetual discussion of the Jonas Brothers” is damaging their neighborhood. The residents who have children enrolled plan on developing an initiative to send the young students to Barnes or “one of those other buildings with little kids somewhere else around town.”

Champlain College, in a retaliatory effort says it now plans to start construction on a 48-foot-by-94-foot paperweight on Summit Street, in what some are calling “a passive aggressive move to further aggravate residents.” The College remarked that the size of the paperweight is needed to keep the 14,000 lbs. folder of complaints issued by the Hill from flying away.

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