I have been a student at App State since 2019, and I don’t know if this gives any credibility to my argument, but I wanted to point out some things that are happening to the town and school I love so much. I will say this again and again and die on the sword of the fact that App State and Boone have reached a climactic point in their relationship and that is this year. If they fail to address this point, they compromise not only the well-being of the town, but the well-being of the university as well. Simply put, App State is too big for its britches. We have far too many students for the size of our campus and our available facilities. Let me give you some examples. The university is obviously recognizing the size increase of our student body with various changes that they have implemented this year.
Starting with the new swipe-based meal plan, there have been countless complaints of lack of options, length of lines and quality of food. App State made a change to the meal plan, but made no changes to the options and venues available. We’ve actually lost dining options since this plan has changed, including McAlister’s, which was a very popular spot for many students. The swipe system also limits students who have special food needs, such as diabetes and specific allergies. Students who only have 30 minutes to grab food in between classes have to wait in lines, stretching all the way out to Varsity Gym, simply to swipe in. This was the first indicator for me that we are becoming too big.
Second, let’s talk about our football team, whose success is a huge factor in our expanding growth as a university. I would like to preface by saying that I am a huge football fan. I was pulled here partially because of the football program as well. When I first started here in 2019, students were guaranteed access to all football games. No Student Yosef Club membership. No lottery. Not even a ticket claim website. Simply swipe your AppCard and you’re in. In 2020, due to COVID-19 and limited capacity, they moved to a limited entry system operating on a lottery, which I actually loved. Finally in 2021, they moved to a ticket claim system which is what we have now. With App State’s recent success and massive influx of students, we are experiencing high demand for entrance into games, where we can’t even guarantee students entry. Kidd Brewer Stadium has a capacity of 30,000, but the recent UNC game broke that record with a total attendance of 40,168 fans. If that’s not enough of a figure of our growth, then I don’t know what is. Boone was shut down as 40,000 flocked in to watch App State vs UNC. The 2020 census marked Boone at a total population of approximately 20,000 people.
With App State’s recent win over Texas A&M, who was ranked sixth in the nation, we got our biggest win since our 2007 win versus Michigan, but it resulted in chaos. King Street was rushed, various points of campus were vandalized, the Duck Pond became a community swimming pool and an art installation in that same pond was destroyed by flocking fans. I love sports more than anyone else, and the magnitude of the win is consistently showing, even College GameDay is coming to Boone, or already came depending on when this is published, but it is also showing lots of disrespect toward our town, university and locals. This comes a week after Wey Hall was broken into and vandalized following the UNC game. There is a lifelong civil war between arts and sports, and sports will never lose. Arts is an extremely under-funded, under-valued and under-appreciated community while the latter is not. App State football finished construction on a $50 million dollar end zone facility and received $1.5 million dollars for simply playing Texas A&M. The arts community in Boone struggles to throw together funds to be supported and the animosity between the two has reached an all time high. The most disheartening part about this is there is zero remorse from any fans for the destruction of these statues. The comments end up being “The baby was ugly,” “Y’all obviously aren’t sports fans,” “It was a huge win,” or my favorite “Sh– happens.” There is zero justification for these actions, but the fans and students blow over it. While this has gotten me off my initial argument, it’s important to bring up because these actions will only further continue as the university continues to grow. These rowdy fans are establishing a dangerous precedent that has brought plenty of attention to App State, via Instagram posts from ESPN, Barstool and other national media outlets, and will bring plenty more students to App State.
Finally there has been a problem that has failed to be addressed consistently for years and that is the local student housing market. There are not enough affordable student living options off campus and as our student body grows, the on-campus ones will fail to exist as well. This is obviously a much harder solution to fix quickly, but it is a large factor in the argument that App State may need to consider cutting off its growth and staying stagnant as the town around them catches up. A lack of affordable housing is complemented by a lack of affordable parking offered by the school and community. There simply are not enough places to park in Boone for all the students we bring in. The community’s answer to this was AppalCart, a free transportation system. But most of the time, the buses are packed to the brim and are inconsistent, providing unreliable transportation to and from campus. Also students forced to live off-campus may not live near AppalCart stops forcing them to find an alternate mode of transportation.
All this being said, I believe we have reached a grand climax in the relationship of Boone and App State. App State needs to either cut off their enrollment to allow the university, town and community to adjust or take over Boone fully. The two are failing to co-exist and will simply not co-exist. We are not a Columbia, a Chapel Hill, or a Charlotte. We are Boone, a town that doubles its population when students come to campus. App State’s response to their growing enrollment is tearing down buildings and building new ones on top of them. I hate to tell you App State, you are running out of space. So what will you do? Expand further into Boone? Cut off your enrollment? Or continue your reckless behavior that is destroying the High Country we know and love?
A concerned student.