This is a great sign in the fight to Save the Hillock, 9 acres of forest on the campus that the University of Maryland is seeking to develop. The University Senate is not the final authoritative body on this matter, the issue now goes to the president of the university, Dan Mote. Still, this is very good for momentum and media coverage. I have a column coming out this Monday in the Diamondback where I make another argument for why the trees should stay.
**Update** The Diamondback article that covered this is here.
University Senate embraces sustainability and votes to preserve 9 acres of campus
Students, faculty, and staff vote in opposition to University administrators to prevent environmental harm and the loss of a ‘living classroom’
College Park, MD – The University of Maryland campus senate voted overwhelmingly today to halt the development of 9 acres of campus forest to relocate facilities displaced by the East Campus Redevelopment Project. The vote comes amidst the University’s search for new firms to develop East Campus.
The vote, a victory for the campus community and residents of College Park comes after 11 months of organizing by concerned students, staff, and faculty. The resolution requests that the campus forest, known as the Wooded Hillock, be preserved in its entirety for its value to the educational and research mission of the University. It was adopted by a vote of 61 in favor, 12 opposed, and 5 abstentions.
University President C. Dan Mote will have two weeks to respond to the senate’s resolution.
Ann Wylie, the University’s Vice President for Administrative Affairs, who did not speak until after vote, said that she would have advised members against voting for the resolution. Wylie promised that she would not touch a single tree until after a full inventory of teaching and research activity relating to the Hillock was conducted and conceded that using the Hillock as a relocation site was, “a bad solution.”
The University had approved plans last year to grade and clear-cut approximately 9 out of 24 acres of the Wooded Hillock in order to relocate campus motor pool vehicles and services, facilities management work and office space; and add 423 new parking spaces. That decision was made without considering significance of the Wooded Hillock to the research and educational missions of the University. Despite recent setbacks in the East Campus Redevelopment Project, University administrators say that they are still pursuing facility relocation to the Wooded Hillock.
The Wooded Hillock, located near the North Campus dormitories, the Comcast Center and directly upstream from Campus Creek, contains the only remaining native upland forest on campus, providing a rare and valuable resource for teaching and research within a metropolitan campus.
The Wooded Hillock is used for hands-on learning by 8 undergraduate programs within four Colleges and the Honors Program. Twenty undergraduate and three graduate courses (total student enrollment – 1355) are use the Wooded Hillock as a living classroom. Four additional courses (estimated total enrollment – 852) are planning to integrate the Hillock into laboratory exercises.
The Graduate Student Government, the Student Government Association and dozens of individual faculty, staff and students have all voiced formal opposition to the development of the Wooded Hillock.
Marla McIntosh, a professor of urban forestry and former director of Arboretum and Botanical Garden at the University of Maryland said, “This is the beginning of a new way of viewing campus facilities in that we need to look at the role the environment plays in the education of our students and the research mission of University.” McIntosh, who has spearheaded the faculty effort to preserve the Hillock, said, “Through this process we have discovered the true value of the hillock which was lost in the original decision.”
Joanna Calabrese a senior at University of Maryland and a Udall Scholar, a national award given to rising young, environmental leaders, said “This is an incredible step towards the preservation of the Hillock and a model for serious deliberation and decision making involving all of the stakeholders.”
Matt Dernoga, a senior at the University of Maryland and the Campaign Director for UMD for Clean Energy said, “I am very pleased to see that the University senate has agreed with other students, faculty, and staff, the Student Government Association and the Graduate Student Government that the University must make sustainable development decisions.”
Alex Weissman, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, said, “Today’s senate vote reflects a value shift among the academic community towards sustainable growth and development.”
The campus senate is the University of Maryland’s top deliberative body. It advises the University President on policy issues and is composed of top administrators and elected members of the campus community.
The campaign to save the wooded hillock is collaboration between concerned faculty, students, and staff. Bob Hayes is a junior at the University of Maryland and an organizer with the College Park chapter of Students for Democratic Society.
For more information contact Bob Hayes or go to savethehillock.org