For many years, and for very good reasons, Denton has taken Texas Woman's University to its heart. We like to think of it as our little sister - kinder, gentler, a little less raucous and a little more innocent than the University of North Texas, its big brother across town.
That characterization is steeped in paternalism, and is unfair to both institutions. Both are grown-up siblings now, with all the blessings and faults of adults.
To wit: TWU, acknowledging its legitimate need to expand, has been buying up property on the south and west edges of its campus.
Many of the 39 purchased homes have already been demolished, and some others survive in lonely desolation, oases of beauty and history in a sea of raw dirt and heavy machinery. Aware perhaps of the delicate and controversial nature of such actions, TWU has not charged forward with condemnation orders, as it could lawfully do. But it is clear that the university has set its sights on some traditionally residential property, and is aggressively moving to acquire it. Little sister has hired herself some bean counters.
Some of the remaining residents in these targeted areas have been fishing around for ways to reverse the disturbing encroachment of bulldozers in their neighborhoods. They have found plenty of sympathy, but few answers.
Kevin Roden, Denton's newest City Council member, represents the area in question, and lives in a restored historic home nearby. He held a meeting at his home Wednesday night to offer his support and pool information and suggestions.
The information, it seems to us, is already out there. Suggestions - useful suggestions - seem hard to come by at this point.
TWU has been in this position a couple of times before, through no fault of its own. Those of us who continue to think of it as our little sister, the quaint little college nestled along Bell Avenue and destined never to grow, are living in a dream world. TWU is no different than any other modern institution of higher learning: It must grow or die. There is no undeveloped land abutting its campus; if it is going to expand, it will have to acquire developed land, some of it residential.
Some of us wonder how vital the TWU golf course is to the educational mission of the university, but not many of us are hopeful that the university would ever consider using that property for expansion when other sellers can be found.
We do not see much chance for compromise at this point between TWU's need to grow and the embattled neighborhood's right to survive. At this point, the cards are stacked in favor of the bean counters.
But we still hold out some tiny, provincial hope that the better nature of our little sister will assert itself at some point, and that these longtime residents can continue to coexist with a dynamic, growing university that retains a compassionate concern for its neighbors.