editor's essay

The Pace of Summer

Workers flash brick at Capen Hall. Photo: Douglas Levere

I might not have spotted it on a cold, blustery winter day. But in mid-July, a student’s ID card in the grass glinted in sunlight as I walked along Flint Road toward the Academic Spine. While it wasn’t like finding a lost engagement ring, I knew this proof of identity would be precious to the card-holder. Students use their UB Card almost daily to purchase meals, obtain discounts for campus entertainment, borrow books or ride the Stampede. Replacing it costs $20, a not insubstantial sum on a student budget.

So I called the number listed on the back and spoke with Julie Homka, supervisor of the UB Card Office. Julie offered to contact the student, Naishal Bhatt. I later learned he’s a biotechnology major who emigrated from India four years ago and is now a U.S. permanent resident. Naishal eventually made his way to my building on the outskirts of campus and happily retrieved his property.

I might not have found the card or met Naishal had it not been for summer’s more relaxed tempo, and the simple fact that far fewer people are on campus from Commencement to late August. With less frequent shuttle bus service, I typically take long walks at lunchtime with Lockwood Library, a hot dog stand in Founders Plaza and an ATM machine my favorite destinations. With summer, too, there’s the opportunity to observe more, to take in sights like the young man climbing atop a huge mound near the Old Stadium to take a picture, high schoolers participating in an engineering camp, or workers on lifts repointing the masonry of Capen Hall, UB’s main administration building.

But as our cover story reminds us, summer’s gentler pace belies the energy and bubbling activity that may be imperceptible to the casual visitor. This is especially true of the many individuals preparing for the return of 29,000-plus students. In Julie’s case, she’s busy during summertime helping students sign up for meal plans and get that all-important UB Card. Others are formulating menus, finalizing curricula, counseling students, painting classrooms, repairing roadways, or just finding time to think, as one PhD candidate explained her summer plans to me.

The altered physical landscape played into Naishal’s losing his card in the first place. When I met him, he was taking a summer microbiology course at Erie Community College. He explained how, after class, he would commute to the North Campus where his mother picked him up to drive to the family’s nearby home. With construction near Flint Loop restricting traffic, Naishal asked his mom to instead pick him up farther down Flint Road—the approximate area where I found the card.

Of course, by the time this is published, Naishal will be fully immersed in his fall semester studies with the UB Card safely tucked in his wallet. Summer’s sizzling appeal—we did have two July days in the 90s—will have yielded to fall’s quickened pulse and much cooler weather. Still, it’s nice to recall summer and all the people who set the stage for autumn’s reinvigorated campus life.

Ann Whitcher Gentzke, Editor