The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Op-ed: Shelving the book stairs: a representation of Northeastern’s underlying problem

Elizabeth Scholl
The Krentzman stairs covered with a decal of Paws. The stairs were previously covered with decals of popular book titles with various Northeastern puns.

Is it dramatic to declare a university in danger of bleak soullessness because it replaced the whimsical book stair design with a picture of the Husky mascot? Perhaps. However, the change is emblematic of a declining sense of community and Northeastern’s concerning shift toward becoming a mere diploma mill.

Replacing the book stairs earlier this year is the latest example of this disturbing trend, though the event may seem inconsequential on the surface. Were the Husky-themed book spines fun to walk up? Yes. But, beyond my now petulant determination to avoid walking up the repainted steps, the change doesn’t physically affect much of Northeastern life. 

However, repainting the stairs represents a missed opportunity for Northeastern to involve the community in decisions and maintain the few whimsical elements on campus. Let it be noted, though, that when I say “whimsical,” I mean something small and clever, not something giant and Dr. Seuss-esque — the questionable Truffula Tree installation is grounds for a whole other article. 

I had a teacher who joked that Northeastern’s ultimate goal was global colonization — and he’s not far off. While the university’s increasingly international reach and focus on admissions numbers have skyrocketed it from a commuter school to a college regularly ranked in the nation’s top 55, its single-minded focus on expansion ultimately does a disservice to students who end up attending. 

Whether it’s student clubs getting kicked out of their historic rooms, consistently unavailable study spaces or hotels converted into isolating dorm rooms away from the heart of campus, Northeastern has lost a sense of community. Growth and prestige have come at the expense of a vibrant campus culture, and the university has fostered an environment that feels more transactional than anything else.

The Krentzman stairs are repainted yearly, but by consistently outsourcing the job to outside designers, Northeastern is squandering the valuable chance to take advantage of its talented student body and create a new campus tradition. 

The stairs could have easily been a fun art department or club project to repaint each season. Students could paint Paws exploring cartoons of Boston landmarks, create a mural of Northeastern’s best food spots, do seasonal and holiday-themed designs or anything else they could come up with. 

Allowing student involvement would have given Northeastern a fun, community-driven feature and given students a say in what they see on campus. Instead, we are subjected to a stock image of Paws, making the campus feel like a set designed for brochures and recruitment videos.

Instead of being an opportunity for communal creativity and engagement, the stair repainting was relegated to an administrative decision that further alienated students from their own campus. The annual change gives the appearance of a vibrant, changing community without actually improving the community at all.

Northeastern is too urbanized and far too big to develop the close-knit community you might find at a middle-of-nowhere 2,000-person liberal arts college, and its global opportunities and co-op cycles only add to the isolation students may experience. However, that doesn’t mean that meaningful changes can’t still be made to improve school spirit and community. 

Significant changes — namely, a shift from manipulating the acceptance rate and purchasing new campuses to focusing on improving the existing university — may not be a realistic ask from a single op-ed.

However, small modifications can do a lot to strengthen a sense of community on campus. Turning a small yearly upkeep, like repainting the Krentzman stairs, into a fun, new tradition is exactly the type of shift that is easy to implement and can add up to create a considerable difference on campus. 

In the meantime, I will continue avoiding the newly painted stairs in what will become, I’m sure, a time-consuming, but pointless protest.


Sencha Kreymerman is a second-year business administration major. She can be reached at [email protected].

About the Contributor
Elizabeth Scholl
Elizabeth Scholl, Deputy Photo Editor
Elizabeth Scholl is a second-year pharmaceutical sciences major with a minor in business administration. She currently serves as one of the deputy photo editors for The News. Her favorite events to photograph include sports, concerts and anything The News needs last minute.
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