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Untitled

The sleek monorail sped along its track toward its destination, University Station. In an effort to ease his nervous tension, Alex decided to open his folded newspaper and re-read the front page story:

NEW SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY TO OPEN TODAY: WHITE ELEPHANT OR NEEDED SPACE?

Boston, MA – According to news stories of the time, it was the most ambitious project ever attempted by a private university. In 2020, after nearly half-a-century of not being able to increase its meager space, due to determined resistance by surrounding neighbors against further aboveground expansion, the Suffolk University Board of Trustees decided to solve the problem once and for all. On a five to four vote, the Trustees decided to relocate the entire University underground. Work began in the spring of 2021, not more than three months after the purchase of the (Boston) Common from the debt-ridden city. In an attempt to correct shortcomings of the original campus, the Board of Trustees approved an endless stream of modifications to the original design, in the process delaying the original 5-year construction schedule by 3 years. If all goes well, the $200,000,000,000 University will be ready to operate at full capacity this morning.

One of the most costly and time-consuming portions of the new University complex is S.U.M.S., Suffolk University Monorail System. The University purchased the old MBTA subway system that had been left abandoned by the state in 2010. Large sections of the system were torn down and either rebuilt or paved over. One of the most impressive of the new stations is University Station, formerly known as Park Street station. The station, decorated with multicolored murals, connects directly to the University via four escalators descending fifty feet onto the main lobby.

The main lobby platform is a work of art in itself. Glass windows extend three stories high, enclosing the softly lit main lobby. Inside the lobby, Plexiglas maps of the underground campus hang from the ceiling, giving the appearance of being suspended in thin air. Each map has a corresponding control box. A student simply pushes the button next to his destination and has the shortest path quickly plotted out for him in a series of colored lights.

Another highly impressive area of the University is the combination library/student lounge complex. Located on the lowest level of the University, the library/lounge facility contains over 500,000 books, periodicals and microfilms. Adjacent to the library/lounge is the cafeteria. Human hands have been replaced by computerized microwave ovens. Students merely insert a meal card, punch up a code and wait several minutes for a piping hot lunch. Commented one displaced cafe employee, "Now who will they blame for the food?"

The one area that the administration takes the most pride in is, without a doubt, the athletics facility. The only portion of the University not to be located underground, the facility covers fully one third of the above ground surface area. Its two stories contain a ten-lane Olympic class swimming pool, basketball court and, on the roof, an enclosed football field. With the new facility came the additional burden of hiring an entire athletics department, an area the University had little need for in the past due to the fact that it owned no athletic facilities.

Of course, not all is roses at the new Suffolk University. To raise the estimated $200 million needed to run the new complex on a yearly basis, the University hiked its tuition to $100,000/year, putting it third behind such giants as Harvard University and Stanford University. Another hike, which would have put it at the top of the list, was narrowly defeated in a vote held last month. No one expects the temporary halt in tuition hikes to last. The issue comes up for a vote again next month and most opposition has been diminished after the budget office released a detailed report which put this year’s operating debt at $1 billion. The debt was accumulated, according to the report, through cost overruns and last minute modifications.

Will the increasing debt cause the new University to become an abandoned white elephant? Some Board members feel this way, while others are optimistic that the problems will be solved as the University begins to expand its student body, thus bringing in more revenues. Of course, only time can tell if the complex is turned into a viable institution or another Boston tourist spot.

The train screeched to a halt.

"Park Street."

"Come on, Alex, We’re here. It’s our stop."

Alex slowly woke up. He folded his newspaper, shoved it into his book bag and left the train. He looked around. "Where are the murals? And what are all these old people doing at our private station?" he thought to himself. The answers to his questions quickly dawned on him. He unzipped his book bag and pulled out the crumpled newspaper. He unfolded it and read the headline:

NEW UNDERGROUND SUFFOLK COURTHOUSE GARAGE TO OPEN TODAY: WHITE ELEPHANT OR NEEDED SPACE?

If was a raw windy day as he exited from the station. In front of him lay Park Street. He buttoned his jacket and began walking up the street.

"A dream," he muttered to himself, "only a dream."

 

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1983,1998 Anthony DiPietro.

All rights reserved. This work may not be reproduced without the written permission of its author.

 

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