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Posts by Scott Carlson

October 4, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

Deferred Maintenance a 'Mess' in U. of North Carolina System

An article in the News & Observer says a $3-billion deferred-maintenance backlog troubles University of North Carolina System officials. "The problem is perpetuating itself," Hannah Gage, chairwoman of the university system's Board of Governors, tells the newspaper. "As the economy has slowed, the state's ability to give us the money we need has declined. We're in a mess."

Although the state approved some $2.5-billion in bonds for the system starting in 2000, with the intention of reversing the trend of disrepair at the institutions, the money "addressed less than half of the $7-billion in total needs cited in a 1999 consultant's report," the article says.

The News & Observer focuses on a plant-science building at North Carolina State University, where pervasive mold is merely one problem plaguing the structure. N.C. State has a $439-million backlog, the article says, while the...

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October 1, 2010, 02:14 PM ET

A Vacation Postcard, Part 3: Luther College and Seed Savers Exchange

seed savers

Visitors can walk through the farm at Seed Savers Exchange, where horticulturalists hope to preserve some 25,000 heirloom varieties.

You've got to like a college president who warmly welcomes an unanticipated guest in his office—especially an unshaven one wearing dirty jeans and muddy work boots.

Richard L. Torgerson, president of Luther College, in Decorah, Iowa, was all smiles when I popped into his office last week, the final stop on a sustainability-oriented tour of the Midwest. After hitting Saint John's University, in central Minnesota, and Growing Power, a community food center in Milwaukee, my friend Arthur Morgan and I bade farewell to our traveling companion, Joe Hamilton, and had driven through southwestern Wisconsin to reach Iowa.

For a small, out-of-the-way college, Luther has gotten a lot of attention recently for its sustainability efforts. Mr. Torgerson's office...

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September 30, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

A Vacation Postcard, Part 2: Growing Power in Milwaukee

growing power


On Monday, I wrote about visiting the wood-fired kiln at Saint John's University on a sustainability-oriented Midwest tour last week. After some time in Collegeville, Minn., I and my two traveling companions headed into Wisconsin and Iowa, where we hunted down sustainable-agriculture sites. First stop, Milwaukee.

There we visited Growing Power, the base of operations for one of the gurus of the local-food movement: Will Allen, a former professional basketball player who started a small farm on a city plot in Milwaukee. His intensively cultivated farm, set in an old greenhouse, has been an inspiration for young people who are interested in urban farming and even a source of research for some university food programs. A couple of years ago he won a MacArthur "genius grant" for his work.


From the press surrounding Growing Power, one might get the impression that Mr. Allen started...

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September 28, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

Harvard's Debt Load Puts Strain on the University, Halts Projects

Today's Boston Globe details the money woes that Harvard University has faced since the economic meltdown, and the way those woes have affected the university's building programs.

The nation’s wealthiest university doubled its debt load over the last  three years, to $6-billion. It spent $204-million to pay down its debt in fiscal 2009, or 40 percent more than the prior year -- money that deans would rather have spent on projects and programs. And Harvard is now spending a larger slice of its $3.8-billion operating budget on debt service than its peers.

The article says that since Harvard has as much debt as it can handle right now, major projects like the Allston campus have been shelved for the foreseeable future. Projects that were already started before the meltdown, like the $250-million law-school building, will continue, but officials quoted in the article said that they will...

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September 27, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

A Vacation Postcard, Part 1: Firing the Kiln at Saint John's University

About a week ago, two friends and I hit the road and drove through the Midwest. This was a well-deserved vacation for me; my neighbor Joe Hamilton, who works on yards-to-gardens projects in our little corner of Baltimore; and Arthur Morgan, who runs an urban-agriculture group, Hamilton Crop Circle. (It's named for a Baltimore neighborhood, not our traveling buddy Joe.)

Now some people go to the beach on their vacations, but we're odd. We visited a series of sustainability-oriented places -- mainly agricultural sites -- picking up whatever information we could gather.

Our first stop was not agricultural, but certainly focused on sustainability and localism: We attended the 11th firing of the kiln at Saint John's University, in Collegeville, Minn. Last year, I wrote about the kiln and profiled the artist who built it, Richard Bresnahan, for The Chronicle Review.


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September 14, 2010, 02:35 PM ET

Worker Killed, 3 Injured at Yale Construction Site

One construction worker was killed and three others were injured after a steel beam collapsed Monday morning at the construction site of a chiller plant at Yale University, reports the Yale Daily News.

The worker who was killed was in critical condition before dying Monday night. The injured workers—two men and a woman—sustained varying levels of injury. One of the men was in critical condition and one in serious condition; the woman was discharged from the hospital on Monday afternoon.

The accident was the second in the past five weeks at the construction site, the newspaper says. Investigators from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration will review the accident and determine if regulations had been broken.

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September 7, 2010, 01:00 PM ET

Will More Colleges Adopt No-Growth Policies?

I was interviewed by someone recently who wanted information about green building in higher education. I told her that there are a number of interesting green building projects out there, but the most radical ideas follow an old saying among sustainability folks: "The greenest building is no building."

That saying might not be as radical as it once was, given the economic climate. The wild building binge of the past 10 to 15 years seems to be catching up with colleges in noticeable ways—most of all in their budgets for operations and maintenance.

And some politicians are taking note. In South Carolina, for instance, there are rumblings about the burdens of building. Reports say lawmakers on the state's budget control board support a proposal to stop putting up new buildings. And Gov. Mark Sanford has linked the $1-billion spent on state-college capital projects in the past four years...

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August 31, 2010, 12:41 PM ET

New York Court Blocks Closing of Stony Brook U.'s Sustainability Campus

A New York State court has ruled that Stony Brook University's plan to severely cut programs at its sustainability campus, in Southampton, N.Y., violates state education law, reports the The East Hampton Press. A group of students had sued the State University of New York branch, which planned to close the academic programs to save money, amid severe state budget problems. According to the newspaper, Judge Paul J. Baisley Jr. said the university's council had not reviewed the decision, as required by law. A Stony Brook spokeswoman said that the university would respond to the ruling and that its council would soon "convene to further discuss the decision to relocate the undergraduate and residential programs from Southampton to the Main Campus."

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August 30, 2010, 10:36 AM ET

Utah Colleges Look for Room to Expand

The Salt Lake Tribune reports on the space crunch faced by a number of colleges in Utah, with a memorable anecdote a few paragraphs down:

At Snow College, a small but growing community college in Ephraim, space is so tight that students study in a room where cadavers are stored.

“For a school with a terrific reputation for pre-med and pre-engineering, this is embarrassing,” Snow President Scott Wyatt said.

The Tribune story mainly discusses a plan at Utah Valley University to acquire 100 acres once taken up by a World War II-era steel mill, two miles north of the campus. The property is now slated for redevelopment. If the $5-million purchase is completed, the cleaned-up land would provide space for intramural-sports fields and student-life facilities. The deal joins a trend of redevelopment projects among higher-education institutions.

The newspaper says Utah Valley has seen a...

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August 25, 2010, 12:00 PM ET

Is Meat Murder? For These Students, the Question Is Personal

Laura and Oliver

Laura Wolfgang holds Oliver, her Black Welsh Mountain lamb. (Photos by Scott Carlson)

Poultney, Vt. — At Green Mountain College's post-petroleum farm, students learn how to grow crops without using fossil fuels to drive tractors or haul in copious quantities of fertilizer. Much of the work here—plowing, mowing, improving the soil, and so on—is done with the aid of animals, which are vital partners in the farming endeavor.

Recently, I stood out in a sunny pasture here with two sustainable-agriculture students, Dayna Halprin and Laura Wolfgang, along with a cow named Princess. True to her name, Princess conveyed an air of bovine entitlement, amplified by the way that Ms. Halprin and Ms. Wolfgang stroked her hide and cooed at her.

"I love Princess—she's a good cow," Ms. Halprin said. A moment later, as Princess's big, wet nose nudged her face, she added: "Hey, don't eat my hat!"


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