Sunday, January 6, 2008

The College Garden Controversy: Your Comments

Famous Unity College Head Chef and manager of the Student center Charlie Krause, who apart from being Maine's Best Cook, is also a master organic gardener in his own right, recently discovered that the garlic bulbs we were saving to use for seed in the community garden had been allowed to freeze. Charlie wrote to UCVoices, the college's email op-ed/discussion service, to complain.

This started a typical UCVoices controversy. Oy.

Now, there will be some at the college who probably think I should be more circumspect before airing our UC sustainability dirty laundry on a web page where the whole world could see it. After all, I'm supposed to be a professional person with years of experience and dirty laundry is typically not aired in public.

But this kind of controversy is actually a strength of the UC system, so why not air it? We are very responsive to student concerns at UC, and we always allow discussion. We have public Community Meetings, organized by student government, to discuss the biggest concerns. Students can get access to the President or other officials pretty much anytime they need, they can write anything they want to UCVoices, and in the sturdy Anglo-American free speech tradition, even rude or otherwise uncongenial writing is never deleted or otherwise censored. And students have a vote and a voice on the Board of Trustees. Anytime the Student Government Association President wants to, he or she can take an issue directly to the Board. The Board will always perk up and pay very close attention to students concerns.

So, it's not a democracy, and can't be, because someone (the BOT, the President and the college officials) has to be legally responsible under Maine and US law, but it's durned close, and certainly the most open college system I've ever seen.

Why go to all this trouble just to run a college? Because this is what a college is for, training leaders for society. Students can't be properly trained to become agents of change unless they can be shown ways to make changes. No brainer.

We should be proud to show the world how well we know how to be a caring, engaged, service-oriented community with students who are actively becoming leaders in scoiety.

And, to boot: If this is the worst we have, well, we're doing pretty good. I can find a much larger pile of dirty sustainability laundry of any other college or university ten minutes after visiting their campus. Big, empty brick and concrete buildings, lousy windows and door, no insulation, energy leaking into the sky, incandescent bulbs everywhere, fume hoods left open in labs, twenty, thirty times more heated square footage per student than is actually needed, unresponsive, uneducated administrators, and students who have to resort to protest or direct action to get anyone to listen to them.

And five or ten times the climate emissions.

Anyway, here is the thread. feel free to chime in.

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