The dedicated people who defend existing buildings that have affected countless lives over many decades enrich public life. The world would be a poorer place without the discussions they spark.
That said, West Virginia State University needs to proceed with demolition of the old Gore and Prillerman residence halls and construct a modern dormitory.
Historic preservationists contend that university officials have not seriously considered how they could renovate the existing structures to meet modern needs. Both apparently qualify for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
Susan Pierce, deputy state preservation officer of the West Virginia Division of Culture and History, told university officials in a June 24 letter:
"When faced with similar situations, other historic universities were willing to renovate those buildings for continued use in order to preserve the campus identity by retaining historically significant buildings," she wrote.
"It is not apparent through submitted materials why that could not occur in this instance."
Representatives of the Preservation Alliance of West Virginia and the Kanawha Valley Historical and Preservation Society agreed. They told Mackenzie Mays of the Sunday Gazette-Mail that there is not enough evidence that the university considered approaches to save the buildings.
Should every institution have to defend every demolition to clear the way for a new building?
WVSU Vice President Melvin Jones said upgrades would not be cost-effective, and that a more modern campus is essential to accommodate today's students.
It's hard to argue with that logic
Preservations are right to speak up for existing structures. But university officials must produce a brighter future for the university and its students.
West Virginia State faces many challenges, and the need for modern on-campus housing is near the top of the list. The newest on-campus dorm was built in 1969.
The university should win this one, so it can benefit from the growth a modern campus can bring.