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Posts by Scott Carlson


August 28, 2012, 10:54 AM ET

What Makes a College Town, and Which Are the Best?

As you know, we here at The Chronicle's Buildings & Grounds blog are not big believers in "best" or "top 10" lists. But when this list of the "top 10 college towns of 2012" arrived in my in box this morning, I couldn't resist passing it along. In doing so, I'm not saying the list is definitive—it's put together by a publication called Livability, which I have never heard of. But I thought it would spur conversation about everyone's favorite college towns. And for starters, we need a basic definition of a college town. "True college towns are places where the identity of the city is both shaped by and complementary to the presence of its university, creating an environment enjoyable to all residents, whether they are enrolled in classes or not," Livability's editors write. "They're true melting pots, where young minds meet old traditions, and political, social, and cultural ideas of all...

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November 7, 2011, 12:48 PM ET

Critics Bring Scrutiny to Deals for Campus Gas Drilling

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette is publishing a series of articles about gas drilling in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, and its effects on and connections to higher-education institutions. (The Chronicle ran an article about gas drilling in the region last year, when colleges were just beginning to be approached by drillers.) The first article in the series focuses on institutions that have struck deals with drilling companies, which use a controversial technique called "hydraulic fracturing," or simply "fracking." (Fracking involves boring down into shale, then using water, chemicals, and explosives to release the gas from the tight rock. Critics worry that the process can contaminate the environment, including groundwater.) The article initially focuses on California University of Pennsylvania, where the nonprofit student association granted a company drilling rights on 67 acres that in... Read More

October 27, 2011, 01:00 PM ET

A Collegiate Stadium, 'Mean Green' and Platinum

"Mean Green" indeed: The new stadium at the University of North Texas got a platinum rating from the U.S. Green Building Council. The New York Times carried a story this week about how the sports industry is embracing environmental sensibilities -- perhaps a surprising and encouraging development, given that big-time sports "represent the broadest cross-section of consumer culture and America’s wasteful ways," as the article put it. But it appears to be a trend, and not one found in the usual places. “You would expect it out of a California team, but not an Arizona team,” said Derrick Hall, the chief executive of the Arizona Diamondbacks, which had added solar panels to its baseball field. How about a Texas team? Unmentioned in the article was the honor unveiled this week for the new stadium at the University of North Texas. It appears to be the first newly constructed stadium... Read More

March 22, 2011, 02:51 PM ET

Western Michigan Sets Up Charging Stations for Electric Cars

It's a pretty good news week for Western Michigan University: Just as the university announced that it had gotten a $100-million gift for its proposed medical school, news outlets were also buzzing about new electric-vehicle charging stations that had been set up on the campus. The announcement ceremony included a visit by a U.S. senator who would be one of the first people to use the stations. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, a Michigan Democrat who had sponsored legislation that offers rebates to people who buy electric vehicles, drove up to the ceremony in a Chevrolet Volt. (She had borrowed it from an alumnus who had just bought the car. Electric vehicles owned by professors were on display, and the university owns a couple of electric vehicles, too.) Use of the charging stations will be free to owners of a special card distributed by ChargePoint America, a division of Coulomb Technologies... Read More

February 4, 2011, 12:46 PM ET

Purdue U. Poised to Kill Plans for $53-Million Coal Plant

Students hired by the coal industry picket for "clean coal" at Purdue U. in September. The Board of Trustees decided that coal was not clean enough. (Flickr photo by americaspower) Purdue University's Board of Trustees has killed plans for a $53-million coal-fired power plant, according to local reports. The board was concerned about the regulatory burdens and environmental impact of such a facility. The university will probably switch to natural gas. "It came down the economics," Robert E. McMains, vice president for facilities, told The Chronicle. He said the university had looked at the possibility of burning natural gas in the early 2000's and concluded that the fuel was too expensive relative to coal. But with new regulations on coal burning and ash coming from the federal government, the return on investment for a coal plant got longer and longer. "We rechecked the assumptions ...

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January 25, 2011, 11:08 AM ET

Penn State to Dump Coal for Natural Gas

The Board of Trustees of Pennsylvania State University has approved a plan to spend $25-million to $35-million to convert the campus's aging coal plant to natural gas. In an interview with The Chronicle, Steven M. Maruszewski, assistant vice president for the physical plant, said forthcoming federal regulations on coal burning would have required costly upgrades for the steam plant. Penn State's analysis showed that the up-front costs of updating pollution controls for coal burning were high and the long-term fuel costs lower, while the immediate costs of converting to natural gas were low although the long-term fuel costs could be higher. In the end, he said, the two options were about even—but university officials anticipated that coal and its emissions could be subject to stricter regulations to come. Cornell University, Duke University, and the University of North Carolina,... Read More

January 11, 2011, 12:33 PM ET

A Professor's Tiny House Is a Model for Different Living

The San Francisco Chronicle features an article today about a tiny house with a big impact that is sitting in a professor's backyard. Karen Chapple, an associate professor of city and regional planning at the University of California at Berkeley, worked with students in engineering and design to build a 450-square-foot house that is a "net-zero energy" structure -- that is, through solar panels, it produces more energy than it uses. Ms. Chapple thought her two-bedroom Berkeley bungalow "was too small for her constant stream of guests, her daughter, and an aging relative," according to the Tiny House Blog. (The home had its ribbon-cutting ceremony over the weekend.) But the home might also prove to be a model for new building in the area -- the San Francisco Chronicle called it a "stealth infill" project that "deserves study by every city where the need for housing outstrips the supply... Read More

October 8, 2010, 12:05 PM ET

If the Military Is Planning for a Fossil-Fuel Crisis, So Should Colleges

A news item this week caused a stir among people who pay attention to energy issues. But did any college administrators take notice?

Granted, the item on its surface had little to do with higher education: The U.S. military is increasingly nervous about its dependence on fossil fuels, reports The New York Times. That dependence presents some vulnerabilities in distant war zones, the Times reported:

Fossil fuel accounts for 30 to 80 percent of the load in convoys into Afghanistan, bringing costs as well as risk. While the military buys gas for just over $1 a gallon, getting that gallon to some forward operating bases costs $400.

“We had a couple of tenuous supply lines across Pakistan that are costing us a heck of a lot, and they’re very dangerous,” said Gen. James T. Conway, the commandant of the Marine Corps.

The impetus for the Times story was a report released last month by a...

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October 6, 2010, 02:00 PM ET

New Drexel U. President Plans Revitalization for Nearby Neighborhoods

You can say this about John A. Fry: The man has a formula for making a college successful, and he doesn't waste time putting it into action.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Mr. Fry has outlined a plan to revitalize the neighborhood around Drexel University, where he was recently appointed president. You'll recall that Mr. Fry made a name for himself in higher education in part by leading a plan to revitalize the neighborhood around the University of Pennsylvania when he was a vice president there.

He then moved to Franklin & Marshall College, where he oversaw a major redevelopment plan that included tearing down an old flooring plant near the college and then cleaning up the site. Redevelopment also helped make a strip of old commercial properties across from the campus along Harrisburg Pike more attractive. In addition, he set up a program to control off-campus student housing,...

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October 5, 2010, 11:00 AM ET

Chronicle Podcast: Get Real About Campus Planning and Maintenance

The Chronicle has a new podcast featuring Harvey Kaiser and Eva Klein, two well-known consultants in the facilities and planning realm. Mr. Kaiser and Ms. Klein have published a new book that pushes colleges to adopt a more holistic and realistic approach to campus planning and maintenance.

"We can't go on acting like we can make a $2-billion list of wishes when we know we're only going to get roughly $50-million a year at best," Ms. Klein says in the podcast. "It doesn't work. We have to completely stop that behavior and get more realistic for the long run."

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