Blogbox | Public Space

The death of campus

By - 23.01.2023

Concrete flattens a university park.

 “But there were no bodies in the main square. Only cars passed by in the main square. Thousands of cars. People were hiding inside the bellies of the cars and a shiver ran through me. I felt irreversibly lost. You couldn’t see a single human face in the streets. Human faces were swallowed by machines. Instead of human eyes, you could see cars’ eyes that passed by with bundles of projectors that pierced the darkness like the eyes of wild beasts.”

“The Skin of a Dog,” Fatos Kongoli

Finally, the Faculty of Philology is being mentioned in the media. All of this, thanks to the underground parking lot which opened in Prishtina, on November 11, 2022. More precisely, the underground parking lot at the Faculty of Philology. Parking is the topic of discussion. The Faculty never is. Especially not the faculty of human knowledge. I don’t have a car, or a driver’s license. Only two degrees from this faculty.

Since I am a student of Philology, I understand why some things are valued and others not. The word “philology” means “love of knowledge” and the word “parking,” maybe “love of cars.” Should we ask why today one is valuable and the other is not? The unimportant one, the faculty, is only mentioned if it happens to be located near a parking lot. Or, the parking lot near a faculty, because the latter is out of fashion, isn’t it?

As a student of these unimportant subjects, language and literature, today I lament the death of a university campus.

And this I do through memories. My most beloved place in all of Prishtina has been this campus, which is now concrete. Back then, it was a golden time of lectures, and after them, on some beautiful spring day, we enjoyed the park in the courtyard of the faculty. We sat and discussed books, or fairy tales, as some would call them.

The commercialized university campus, a modern dream! Nightmares too are dreams.

Sometimes, I would sit there alone and dive into a book. I loved the location. It was so close to the center, but the trees maintained some distance from the dynamic life beyond. Surrounded by students who nurture a pure love of knowledge, or reside in the blessed solitude of books, the campus park seemed to me like an ivory tower. It was my ivory tower where I spent breaks between lectures, by the colorful trees and in a green paradise. It seemed like a dream to me, to study literature in such a place.

This is the glorious past of the university campus, before it was brutally murdered. Since the beginning, I have lamented its fate, even though they promised that the lost paradise would return. Can something that is dead return? The park can return only as much as those years could, when I not only studied, but lived art in the semi-dark halls of the Philology Faculty. Not only has it not returned, but in addition to the parking lot, businesses were opened there. The commercialized university campus, a modern dream! Nightmares too are dreams. 

Now my ivory tower looks like a shopping mall. It is another ugly picture of today, where academic settings have no place. They don’t bring enough capital. It’s a fast life, who has time to slow down in the parks and dive deeper into their thoughts? It’s better to enjoy a dessert or a burger at one of the restaurants there, among crowds of people and to forget our thoughts. Today, life is more suited for a car than a human being.

Oh, I completely forgot about cars. The famous parking lot. The main problem is the high prices. “The Little Prince” by French author Antoine de Saint-Exupérym, complains that adults only think in numbers.

One hour, one euro. Two hours, two euros. Weekly rent, 90 euros. Monthly rent, 250 euros. Annual rent, 2,500 euros. 

They only understand problems if they are presented in numbers. My concerns do not exist because I cannot present them numerically. What number would represent the academic environment if it was not turned into a business area? What number would equal stealing the campus from the students and handing it over to business owners? I can’t quantify it. Others are only interested in translating this into money, they don’t understand other languages.

Well, they’re right. Life is very expensive today. That’s true. Even the parking lot. Knowledge, meanwhile, is asking for alms, inside and outside the faculty. We are leaving knowledge aside, outdated and almost forgotten within the faculty. Let’s go back to the area above the underground parking lot. I don’t think it’s a good idea that businesses that are not related to academia have been set up there. I have some better ideas. But these ideas will be left behind, so we can enter the restaurants with empty minds and fill our bellies. 

Who cares about education?

But something is missing. Some online businesses should become physical stores, such as those selling dissertations or scientific papers. Both students and professors would benefit. They could step outside the faculty and order a thesis. Bachelor’s, master’s or a doctorate. While they wait, they enjoy a coffee. Would this cost as much as parking?

The other idea is to build a large hotel, with ads so large, that the faculty building cannot be seen at all. Or why not turn the faculty building into a hotel? Or apartment buildings. Who cares about education?

If the authorities are happy with the “Europeanization” of the capital, many citizens will be happy. As Camus says, “we must imagine Sisyphus happy” and “accept the absurdity of our lives.” Sisyphus is the mythological figure, condemned to roll a stone up a steep hillside for eternity.

“Underground parking, an added value to the city of Prishtina,” was declared by those present at the opening –– those who were experiencing this divine happiness (the new home for their cars). They emphasize the word value, with a bright smile on their faces, so they almost make us believe in it. The parking lots –– a value. The way we are headed can hardly create any other value.

With such a life, how can anyone be happy? And if I see smiles at the campus’ funeral, then any other kind of happiness can be imagined.

Feature Image: Atdhe Mulla / K2.0.