The Bernard Field Station and its friends have a lot to be worried about now that it’s missing its manager.
This recent development in the field station’s complex history marks a critical turning point in the decades-long battle between those who believe the BFS should be preserved for ecological and environmental reasons and those who would develop the land.
Removing the manager from the field station makes its already-uncertain future even more tenuous. As reported this week in our story “Students, Faculty React to Field Station Manager’s Departure,” Stephen Dreher was an extremely valuable resource in a variety of ways. Not only was he the sole person with the extensive knowledge needed to keep the field station running, he also served, literally and symbolically, as the field station’s defender—not just against physical intruders, but also against the encroachment of development into the field station.
Removing that linchpin of expertise and protection could send the entire project of preservation careening out of control. Already faced with the difficult task of defending its own existence, the BFS is now on shaky ground after losing one of its main cornerstones.
Straightforward, first-hand information about the process behind decision-making about the field station is difficult to come by. CUC does not seem eager to release information about how and why it chooses to make these decisions.
As such, TSL cannot make assumptions about CUC’s motivations or plans for the future. We cannot say for sure that CUC is not planning to search for a capable and willing replacement, or that it does not plan to create an opportunity for Dreher to train such a replacement.
The haste with which all of this happened, however, does not seem to indicate a cautious or concerned approach to management of the field station. We could never argue that CUC was unjustified in firing an employee because that employee knowingly permitted underage drinking—if that is, indeed, what happened.
We can, however, argue that CUC is exposing itself as either irresponsible or actively opposed to preservation of the field station if it does not attempt to find a way to transfer Dreher’s knowledge to a new employee.
We urge CUC to take extreme care in handling this matter; to find a worthy and enthusiastic candidate to fully take over the position; to make a real attempt to have Stephen pass on his understanding of the BFS to that candidate; and to award the field station another agent who can legitimately stand up for its preservation.
The CUC can choose to either treat this as one isolated incident, or it can use that incident to promote denigration of the field station as a “problem” area. TSL believes the field station deserves more confidence than that. Rather than continue to destabilize the BFS by stripping away its validity, let us allow it to justify and defend itself from a position of relative security. And if CUC continues to keep the field station’s future uncertain and unstable, we hope students will continue to step in to fight for this resource.