The historic steps of Blair Arch received a controversial upgrade in the first few days of Winter Break – four gray pole railings.
Upon returning to campus and seeing the railings, a number of students have raised concerns about their effect on the aesthetics of the arch.
"I think they're ugly, aesthetically unpleasing and unnecessary," Kevin Linder '98 said. "No one is going to grab those things."
"They're kind of unsightly," Adam Lieber '01 said. Sarah Stoneking '01 said she felt that they do not "go with the look of the building." Jenny Yeh '01 agreed, saying the installation of railings on the arch's steps "ruins it."
An informal 'Prince' poll taken yesterday afternoon found that very few people who climb the stairs actually use the new railings. Of the 112 people who traversed the stairs over a period of about an hour, only six touched the railings. The majority continued to walk up and down the center of the stairs, apparently ignoring the railings. It should be noted that the observations were made at a time when it was drizzling and the stairs were wet.
A few students were not bothered by the change and instead saw potential benefits. Sara Isani '01 said she sees "no disadvantage to having these railings." She said she thought some people, such as people on crutches, need railings on stairs. Director of Physical Planning Jon Hlafter said the railings were installed by his office at the recommendation of the Office of Risk Management. Risk management director Laurel Harvey said the safety of the stairs "was an issue that was identified years ago."
"They have long been recognized as a serious concern both as a safety and a liability issue," Harvey said.
Though Harvey noted that the recommendation occurred before she became the head of Risk Management, she added that she endorsed it. While the railings were just installed, the recommendation was made more than two years ago.
Addressing student concerns, Harvey said, "I sympathize from an aesthetic point of view, but hope that they can sympathize from a safety perspective." She cited ice and the number of steps as factors that make the stairs dangerous.
Harvey also explained that "it's a campus open to the public," and that "we have to be cognizant of safety for the entire visiting public," including people of all ages and those with disabilities.
In response to questions that have been raised over the choice of railing, Hlafter said the railings are "the basic railing" that the University uses in such conditions.
USG President Jeff Siegel '98 took a stand against the railings yesterday. "They're a real eyesore to the campus," he said.
"The USG is going to work as hard as we can to get rid of them as fast as possible," he added.
"It's a big problem for arch sings, a capella groups, step sings and theater groups that want to use that space. It will be a problem for the senior step sing," Siegel noted.