Drinking is good for you - coffee, that is

Friday, August 17, 2007

Anyone who drinks coffee at any of the many fine gathering places around here knows that's where all the best thinking occurs.

If you don't believe it, just ask any of the coffee drinkers.

I was at my usual coffee-drinking spot one morning this week with the usual coffee drinkers, and we were talking about the usual coffee-drinking topics.

And, as usual, we talked about the weather.

Some of us remembered that time, not all that long ago, When Everything Was Not Air-Conditioned. Somehow, we all nodded in agreement, we survived. Otherwise we wouldn't be sipping scalding hot coffee on a day when the early morning temperature of well past 80 feels like a cool spell.

We talked about Southeast Missouri State University students moving back to dorm rooms on campus. We nodded in agreement that the university has the moving-in logistics down to a science, and thank goodness there will be temporary air conditioning in Dearmont Hall, the only residence hall without its own system of refrigerated air.

And we talked about Don Greenwood's editorial cartoon in Thursday morning's paper, the one that shows the beleaguered new federal courthouse, recently diagnosed with a faulty roof even before the building is occupied, and a request to FEMA for some blue tarps left over after Hurricane Katrina. It was funny, one of Greenwood's best.

That's when the Great Big Great Idea smacked us right in the face.

The university has so many students wanting to enroll that it doesn't have enough on-campus housing for freshmen. As a result, a few late-applying, qualified applicants have been turned down. And the temporary air conditioning at Dearmont will cost about $1,000 a day.

And then there's that big, empty new federal courthouse. Why not temporarily house university students there? The courthouse has all the amenities a student could possible want:

* It's climate-controlled.

* It's secure, with its own armed guards.

* So what if the roof leaks? It doesn't look like it's going to rain for a long time.

* The new courthouse is conveniently located halfway between the main university campus and the new River Campus for the arts.

* The two gyms in the courthouse would be put to good use.

* And, since we've already sunk more than $60 million into the courthouse, we might as well get some of our money's worth rather than having a big, empty, expensive building on our hands.

There is ample precedent for this.

Right after World War II, government housing at the airport, which was a flight-training facility during the war, was used for married students.

In the late 1970s, Southeast experienced an enrollment boom. The university turned the old St. Francis Hospital, now demolished, into temporary student housing known as University Hall.

At one point overflow students were put up in the Marquette Hotel building and at the Town House Inn on Kingshighway.

If students were given quarters at the new federal building -- how does Rush Hudson Limbaugh Sr. Hall sound? -- they would have to be resourceful. After all, a courthouse is not designed for sleeping, although I'll venture to say that more than one juror has nodded off during a complicated trial dealing with something like tax law.

Isn't that what college is all about? Don't we want young men and women to learn to use their wiles and find solutions for unusual problems instead of tucking tail and going home -- or, worse, to Three Rivers Community College?

As you might imagine, there were a bunch of puffed-up chests among the coffee drinkers on this particular morning. Another problem solved. Another day off on the right foot.

By the way, if you have a problem you would like to have solved by coffee drinkers, please don't send it to me.

Go drink coffee.

R. Joe Sullivan is the editor of the Southeast Missourian.

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