HMC Faces Tough BFS Questions This Summer

With the end of the school year approaching, students and administrators at Harvey Mudd College have continued efforts to resolve the issues surrounding the possible development of the land adjacent to the Bernard Field Station, which was purchased by HMC last fall.

Harvey Mudd plans to start construction within a year on a new teaching and learning building, which will replace Thomas-Garrett Hall. However, according to current Claremont city regulations, HMC would be required to build a parking lot within 800 feet of the new building. In order to satisfy these requirements, HMC has considered building a parking lot on 1.2 acres of the 11.4 acres of undeveloped land adjacent to the BFS that they currently own. However, students have expressed concern over the proposal to pave any of the ecologically valuable land.

A recent survey conducted by Associated Students of Harvey Mudd College President Patrick Foley HM ’09 asked students whether they would accept that parking would be available only to juniors and seniors if the land was left undeveloped. According to Foley, over 60 percent of the approximately 250 students that took the survey said they would rather eliminate parking for underclassmen if it meant the land would not be paved.

“I felt that students would respond in a way that still said we don’t want the BFS paved for a parking lot,” said Foley. “I think that that’s the signal that the survey sent. We didn’t bring that up as a suggestion for policy; it was more just a way to gauge at what cost students were willing to preserve the BFS.” The survey response follows a petition initiated earlier in the semester by Ben Keller HM ’10, who is active in both Engineers for a Sustainable World—Mudders Organizing for Sustainable Solutions (ESW-MOSS) and Students for the Bernard Field Station. A total of 227 HMC students signed a petition against the parking lot.

Students are continuing to make efforts to have their voices heard by the HMC administration. According to ESW-MOSS member Claire O’Hanlon HM ’09, the group has spent the last week and a half doing photo petitioning in Hoch-Shanahan Dining Commons, and she recently led a tour of the BFS in honor of Earth Week.

“Mostly people wanted the administration to be more transparent in their decision-making process and look at all possible options before doing the unimaginable,” said O’Hanlon.

Students for the Bernard Field Station are also going to have a booth at the Apr. 26 Claremont Earth Day event. According to Keller, the group hopes to engage with the Claremont community to make them more aware of the issues regarding the BFS and the actions the Claremont City Council are taking in response.

According to Keller, HMC is considering applying to the city of Claremont for a variance to the 800-foot parking rule. HMC could either request that they be allowed to build parking spaces further away or try to make certain sacrifices, such as allowing only upperclassmen to park on campus and increasing compensation for faculty who opt to carpool.

Currently, Keller said, city parking regulations lump all the colleges together, which does not take into consideration the difference in parking issues for a primarily residential college, like HMC, and a school like the Claremont Graduate University, which has more commuter students.

Keller plans to attend the City Council meeting on May 12 in order to discuss the parking situation at HMC.

In the meantime, HMC Treasurer and Vice President for Administration and Finance Andrew Dorantes has been meeting seriously with the City Council Planning Committee to discuss what would be needed for HMC to receive a variance from the city. According to Keller, the planning committee will hear HMC’s case and make a recommendation to the city council.

“It seems very unlikely at this point, just given the large disconnect with the regulations and the reality of the situation that there won’t be some sort of variance from the city,” said Keller. “The question here is how flexible is the city going to be. The city certainly doesn’t want to be seen as having forced Harvey Mudd to pave the BFS.”

According to a recent campus wide e-mail from Robert Cave, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty, while development plans remain under consideration, HMC will “allow biological research and teaching to continue on the land until at such point the property will be developed.”

However, even if some sort of solution is reached, O’Hanlon said she believes issues regarding the land will continue to arise unless major consortium-wide changes are made to address the way the colleges view the land.

“Until the BFS is set aside by the consortium as a priority to be preserved, we will always be fighting this battle,” O’Hanlon said.

There will be an open discussion today at 4 p.m. in the Platt campus living room where issues regarding the future of the BFS and adjacent land with be discussed. The forum is open to students and a range of options and suggestions will be considered.

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