The grass that Albion students walk on may be contaminating the college’s ecosystem.
On Aug. 26 in an open letter to college president Donna Randall, Dr. Wesley Dick accused the college of using environmentally-unfriendly pesticides to maintain the school’s lawns. Dick, a history professor, said that becoming a campus that does not use pesticides is the healthy and moral choice.
At the Oct. 2 meeting of the Center for Sustainability in the Environment, Dick lectured about the dangers of using pesticides on grass that students and staff walk on daily.
“Forty years ago, you could smoke in the classrooms at Albion College,” Dick said. “However, the attitudes about smoking have changed since then, and now asking to light up is seen by some as ‘can I give you cancer?’ Hopefully, we’ll see the same kind of change in attitude about using pesticides.”
This outrage is focused on the college’s willingness to use potentially harmful chemicals on its property following theme years of sustainability and wellness.
“We learn and teach at Albion College with an obligation to take action on issues that concern us,” Dick said. “There is a disconnect with human vulnerability here. The college is not living up to its projected ideal of sustainability.”
In order to solve this environmental and public health issue, Dick proposes that the college become an organic campus.
“We take pride in the organic farm and organic diet of Baldwin,” Dick said. “Why not extend that feeling to the whole campus?”
Dick feels that the obligation to take action also lies with the students. Working against the college’s pesticide policy with sincere pressure from students is the first step to achieving change on the campus, he said.
Scott DesRosiers,Warren sophomore, is working on a student petition to Student Senate that will ask the Board of Trustees to strongly consider making Albion College a pesticide-free campus.
“The students are responsible for keeping the campus green,” Desrosiers said. “That’s why the greenhouse we use at the organic farm is pesticide-free.”
He added that larger colleges like Seattle University have organic campuses, with Seattle University having been organic for over 25 years.
Mark Frever, head of grounds keeping, agreed with Dick and DesRosiers.
“An organic campus is certainly feasible,” Frever said. “It will require a lot of different groups to buy into it, including administrators, but a student initiative is the first step. I admit that there are a lot of unknowns about pesticides, and an all-organic campus could avoid problems.”
Frever acknowledges there might be some difficulty in the transition due to considerations about the extent of the organic campus policy.
“What are we to do in case of termites or invasive plants,” Frever said. “These situations may require pesticides. However, if an all-organic campus is done right, it won’t damage the beauty of the school, and we would be honoring the principles of the college.”