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ISSUE 121 VOL 3 PUBLISHED 10/5/2007

A Word from Our Editors: Prudent Policy

By Peter Farrell
Executive Editor

Friday, October 5, 2007

Two weeks ago, President Anderson sent the student body an e-mail that contained information pertaining to the potential uses of the College's "non-core" lands. At the request of the Board of Regents, Boldt Consulting Group –- - a subsidiary of Boldt Construction Company - - appraised the value of these six "non-core" properties (identified alphabetically as parcels A-F) and submitted their findings earlier this summer. Anderson's message directed students to both Boldt's completed study and the Executive Committee's final recommendation to the full Board of Regents. The Board will deliberate on this recommendation on Oct. 4-5, and, most likely, reach a decision regarding the future use of over 400 acres of St. Olaf property.

With one important modification, the Manitou Messenger endorses the majority of the Executive Committee's recommendations regarding the use of "non-core" lands. We support the incorporation of parcels A and B into the College's endowment, as well as setting aside the southern portion of parcel F as permanent green space. We also believe that parcels C and D should be considered for development, but in light of their proximity to the Core Campus, any commercialization of this land should be severely limited and adhere to the College's sustainability ethic.

Our support for these aspects of the Executive Committee's recommendation stems from our conviction that the Board's proposal does not seriously undermine the College's commitment to creating a sustainable community. Rather, the College is rightly pursuing a policy that seeks to balance our environmental concerns with pragmatic financial strategy. For a school of our size and stature, St. Olaf's endowment is paltry. According to the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO), St. Olaf's endowment is the 200th largest in the nation. If St. Olaf had a larger amount of capital to draw on, the College could use the extra cash to keep tuition far more stable than it has been over the past four years.

By marking parcels A and B for development, St. Olaf gets to immediately incorporate the parcels' potential market value into our endowment. If St. Olaf continues to increase tuition at its current rate, we face the very frightening prospect of pricing out talented students that would otherwise choose to matriculate here. It is also wise to leave the option of development for parcels C and D open, albeit with stricter environmental covenants due to their location.

Setting aside the southern portion of parcel F as green space is sound policy that shows our continued commitment to sustainability and environmental research. We do, however, have serious reservations about the development of parcel E. This piece of land is adjacent to Eaves Avenue, and, if developed, traffic regulations would likely result in the necessity of rerouting Eaves Avenue through the natural lands. The danger this poses to the integrity of our natural resources outweighs potential financial benefits. Instead, we ought to set aside this land for student research. Furthermore, we also believe that the establishment of a greenway corridor –- - as recommended by Boldt Consulting Group –- - must be honored As a campus, we must continue to balance our "green" concerns – cash and nature. By adopting these amendments to the current proposal, the College is heading in the right direction.

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