Of the many Northern students I’ve met over the last two years, an overwhelming amount have one thing in common: we love nature and the environment.
It is what brought us all here in one aspect or another. Some came to Northern because they saw it as an opportunity to get away from the world and escape the dull tasks of normal day-to-day life back home. Others came because they simply loved to be outdoors, and what better place to get out than Northern?
Northern has naturally always been a university based on the simple joys of life. Most students didn’t come here for a degree that will earn them a 9 to 5 job or a position somewhere on Wall Street. We see the beautiful landscape as a field of opportunity that blooms with our untraditional way of thinking.
At Northern, it is not uncommon for students in the EEGS department to study outdoors in the same locations as the biology or chemistry departments. Classes are constantly out in nature studying at places like Wetmore or Dead River. With the creation of the Outdoor Learning Area several years ago, classes no longer have to leave campus and can receive the same amount of learning experience as traveling to areas around Marquette.
However, the administration is now aiming to intervene in this process by “relocating” some of the native plants in the area to make room for flashy new dorms. They claim it is a 15 percent reduction in initial area from the native plants site, but as Presidetnt Fritz Erickson says, “In my mind, I don’t include the retention pond.”
If the administration would realistically assess the situation, it is more of a 40-45 percent reduction in the native plants area once the pond is rightfully included. The administration is basing their logic on the idea that the area is like any other material item—something that can be easily replaced.
They place it in the same category as the dormitories they plan on destroying. What Erickson doesn’t understand is the retention pond cannot simply be relocated.
“I don’t think Erickson or the administration understands that the retention pond is important to the surrounding environment,” Abigail Winters, environmental studies major, said.
“He says we can build a new one, but it has established itself over the course of several years.”
There are several opportunities to get involved if you are looking to stop the concrete swaying administration. To keep up on all of the updates, there is a Facebook page titled “Help Save the NMU Native Plants Study.” This page allows students to stay updated and gives them direction on how to get involved.
Winters, a member of Gamma Theta Upsilon, encourages students to attend their event on Earth Day, April 22. They are hoping to get a professor to do an educational walk-through in the native plants area. Members of Gamma Theta Upsilon have also asked Erickson to attend in order for him to get the students’ perspective or opinions of the native plants area.
Students of NMU are trying to set an example on principle. What kind of precedent are we setting for the future administrations of Northern if we value new deluxe facilities over another intrinsically important aspect of many students’ lives?
We understand the necessity for new buildings, especially for the ancient-looking Quad 1. But we don’t need to try to be a university we are not. This is the type of behavior you expect at much larger schools who base their student enrollment on the latest and greatest.
We need not sway toward materialism to increase our student body size. Why destroy the very roots that define us as a university? In fact, we need to sway toward sustainability so when future generations look at what we have done to handle our dormitory issues, they’ll say to themselves: “the administration and students worked together to promote what was best for us. Let us do the same for those who come later.”
Times like these are always best decided not with the easiest avenue, but with one that brings the best for the future. Decades down the road, we want to be proud of what we accomplished here.
I think I speak for many students at Northern when I say that I’d rather sleep in a tent outside than let an inch of the native plants area be destroyed for material-valued dormitories. We are Northern Michigan University, home to a student body who understands the true beauty in life.