Construction on the Village parking lot and the deforestation near the Quick Center began during spring break while students were away. (Peter Caty/The Mirror)

When she heard the construction had started, Alex Roem ’10, the director of the Green Campus Initiative, sacrificed her spring break and came back to campus.

“I wish I could have stood in front of the machines, but even the tires were bigger than me,” senior Roem said.

But without other students alongside her, advocating for  the woods, she couldn’t bring herself to stand in front of the machines.

She had known that construction to expand the Quick Center parking lot was scheduled to begin sometime in March, but she hoped to have her allies at her side when it did. She didn’t care to vacation over Spring Break; instead she chose to document the events in the parking lot, despite strange looks from the workers manning the machines.

The expansion plans that took away at least 60 trees from the south side woods on campus had only been made known to the students and faculty on the Environmental Steering Committee in February, although plans had been made in late 2008.

Since Roem heard of the construction plans, she has been in countless meetings, working to prevent the very scene that happened before her last Wednesday.

The week before, students and professors had put yellow ribbons around trees in the area. Roem, unable to stop the deforestation, inspected the area, found the ribbon she put up days before abandoned on the ground. Now, she has it tied to her backpack as a symbol of what has happened.

Construction also began in the Kostka/Claver parking lot last week, taking down more trees. In addition, students living in the suites are parking in Jogues lots temporarily.

A Call to Action

Refusing to feel defeated, Roem met with other students from GCI on Tuesday night to plan for action that can alleviate problems in the future.

Roem explained that she feels GCI, which has successfully worked to get rid of trays in the cafeteria and the plastic bags in the Stag snack bar, must step up and represent the student body.

“We’re stakeholders in this community,” she said. “It’s affecting students, period. Plain and simple.”

Although she thinks many students may be ready to give up fighting after the deed has been done, Roem wants future students to be informed of what’s going on, and for administration to communicate with them about matters that will affect them.

“We’re not children. We’re adults,” she said.

Like Roem, professors were stunned that the construction was completed so quickly. Jen Klug, a professor who works with water from streams on campus, said, “I was stunned to see that so much life could be destroyed in two days.”

After student and faculty intermediation, minor changes were made in the plans to expand the parking lot, including the saving of a particular tree that is older and quite large in size.

“Such changes during the construction phase are not uncommon,” said Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Reed. Reed commented that the decision to start construction over Spring Break was not intended to avoid confrontation with the students and faculty. He said that the Environmental Steering Committee will be informed of future campus planning activities, although in this case they received late notice of the plans.

“Clearly the communication could have been better on both sides,” Reed said.

“We respect the right of those opposed to the expansion of the parking lot to express their views,” said University President Jeffrey von Arx.

But despite plans to mitigate future problems, it’s hard for Roem, a senior, to end her legacy as GCI director knowing this was able to happen under her watch.

“We can be mad at the situation but we need to work constructively with the administration,” Roem said. “That seems like a difficult and ominous task right now.”

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