Tuesday, February 24, 2009

URI Students Work to Save the North Woods

Times sure are different; as bad as this economy is, things are better than when I went to college. I have had the pleasure of working with a group of students at the University of Rhode Island that are dedicated to saving an area of campus known as the "North Woods". The University would like to construct a new Research Park that would utilize almost 30 acres on the north side of campus. Unfortunately, this proposed park would land right on top of a 100 year- old forest that has been largely undisturbed.

Students have started to do all of the right things. They have gathered information, asked to meet with professors, sought advice from a number of sources and developed a plan to approach the Administration. Nobody is trying to make headlines here. These students believe that a research park is a good thing for the University; they are just concerned about URI losing rural character and an important teaching tool that they are all familiar with. When concerned about how to handle any press, a group prepared a press release to focus the discussion appropriately.

I have had the honor to work with so many of these students that truly care about their University and the North Woods. They understand that URI needs both a research park and this natural laboratory.

When I attended UMass (1968-1972) student grievances were handled a little differently. On my first day at UMass, student orientation, June 5, 1968, Robert Kennedy was assassinated. This happened just 3 months after the loss of Martin Luther King. I remember a visit to the campus by Hubert Humphrey after he lost the election to Richard Nixon. Humphrey actually came to our dorm. A group of disgruntled students surrounded him and demanded that they meet with him privately. The scene was very tense but he handled it well. He never got to speak to the student body that evening because an obnoxious professor took over a microphone and would not stop his rant against the war in Vietnam. Humphrey had to walk off stage. Strom Thurman, Senator from South Carolina, came to campus to speak one time and was greeted by students dressed in KKK garb. As they approached the stage, Thurman exited through a back door and got into his limo. I stood and watched in horror as students tried to turn the vehicle over. He managed to escape without anyone getting hurt. When UMass announced a hike in tuition from $50 per semester to $150, a group of student protesters had a sit-in at the Administration building.

Times have changed. Students have changed and it's all for the better. Let's hope that there is a win-win for everyone here. Can you imagine one of these dedicated students arriving at the University 40 years from now and taking a walk through the North Woods on their way to a meeting at the Research Park? They would be proud and they should be proud.

I still wish tuition was $50 per semester though!

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  1. tom,
    it's nice to see you're still so passionate about the cause. the days we spent in the north woods for forest management were a great learning experience that future uri student deserve to have. i wish i could be at uri this year to help out, but i've been studying in alaska since august. let me know if there's anything i can do from here! hope all is well.

  2. Haley: Great to hear from you. Alaska is an exciting place to be, politics aside. There seems to be some progress towards saving the North Woods. Let's hope that a solution is found. Keep in touch. Tomtoak