Chris Osterlund, former SGA executive vice president, said the students have stepped out of their comfort zone and embraced this unique project.
“These students aren’t landscape architects,” Osterlund said. “They have never dealt with anything like this before. But they have taken it and run with it. This concept is outside of their realm, but they have been unbelievable. I couldn’t think of a cooler opportunity for Auburn students to work on something that is for Auburn students. Who better to design something that will embody the Auburn spirit?”
The memorial’s location is planned for Ross Square, located behind Samford Hall, and was created with the idea of unifying the Auburn student body.
“The idea came after the deaths of the students last spring,” Osterlund said. “We as a collective student government wanted to look into the grieving process and the way it was handled. The way the deaths were addressed didn’t seem along the same lines as the Auburn family, that kind of iconic theme of our student life.”
After researching case studies in the psychology department, the results showed that the response to a tragedy must be consistent.
“There was one characteristic that was common throughout all of the research: you have to address all deaths the same way,” Osterlund said. “If you glorify one death more than another, you lose something and you don’t give a person their ability to be acknowledged.
“You want a common platform that you address a death on.”
Even though the University had a way of dealing with the death of a student, Osterlund wanted something to unite the student body.
“Families are sent a posthumous enrollment verification, a flag that has been flown in front of Samford and hung in the Student Center and flowers are sent, but what about the student body?” Osterlund said. “When do they get a chance to come together and grieve as one? It seemed like the solution was a common place, a location, a physical memorial that symbolized the Auburn spirit that lives on through the student body.”
A final model presentation for Ross Square was presented to Auburn officials April 23, but three major tasks are still to be completed.
“Now that we have four designs we have to decide which model to pick,” Osterlund said. “Then we have to continue to get money and get Board of Trustees approval.”
Where the money will come from is a common question posed to Osterlund.
“Initially we tossed around ideas for some sort of fundraiser, but after talking to developers they thought it would be best to make it the central student gift for the student giving campaign,” Osterlund said.
Osterlund said he thought displaying the four models in the Student Center during the fall semester and having students vote on which design they liked best could garner support and excitement for the project.
With many variables still left to be decided, a strict timeline has not been set.
Osterlund hopes by this time next year, SGA will have taken the steps to begin contracting out the project.