Feb 122012
Authors: Colleen Canty

For one student group, proposals for an on-campus stadium represent segregation, insult and the destruction of a relationship that has been crumbling for years.

The Sustainable Development Club (Sus-Dev), a CSU student-run organization comprised of volunteers dedicated to a model of organic, urban and environmentally sound farming and food production since 1997, has raised its voice in opposition to recent suggestions to transform its educational agriculture land into a football stadium.

According to Lea Pace, a senior biological sciences major and co-manager of Sus-Dev, the land on the south side of campus running east to west along Lake Street is home to several gardens, the Plant Environmental Research Center and the arboretum. This plot of land is the smallest among three others on the chopping block if the athletic department is able to proceed with plans for building a stadium on university grounds.

When Pace caught wind of the proposal three weeks ago, she immediately prepared herself to fight it.

“My first gut reaction was to chain myself to ground,” she said. “I initially felt disappointment that something (the garden land) with that much potential could be overlooked and that this decision could be made without our consent. We weren’t even told; I heard about it accidentally.”

After the disbelief had abated, Pace and Sus-Dev co-manager and sophomore natural resources management major Robyn Goldstein went to work crafting a petition they posted on the Internet and circulated at Ron Paul’s speech two weeks ago.

According to Pace and Goldstein, the petition attracted approximately 50 signatures at the event; the online count is currently at 308 and multiplying.

Goldstein said she takes satisfaction in watching the petition gain support, however slowly, as it ascends the web’s hierarchy of popularity toward the pro-stadium Facebook page, sitting pretty at 557 likes.

“It took 1,000 signatures to get Ron Paul to speak here, so I figured, ‘Hey, that’s what gets things done, so let’s shoot for that,’” Pace said.

While a list of signatures scrawled on some weathered paper or typed into a cyber text box seems to be a feeble and futile fight according to some, Goldstein regards it as the first step in a long trek to victory.

“I think education is the first step; people can make a decision either way, but they should know all the facts first,” she said. “The petition is a way of combining everyone into one voice – if they (the administration) agree to move forward with the plan, we can step up and say, ‘This is how many people don’t want this to happen and you should reconsider.’ But so many people don’t even know about the proposal, which is crazy to me.”

Anne Marie Merline, an honors professor who teaches a sustainability seminar and added her name to the online petition, is less faithful in the idea that the people’s power can halt “the steam engine going full on” that is the athletic department.

“I am not optimistic at all,” Merline said. “Obviously the administration has power that student and faculty don’t; if they want something to happen, they make it happen.”

“No one else’s opinion is going to matter, even if they are making great efforts to gauge public opinion and hold forums; I believe it’s just a motion they go through to appease the people who might oppose it,” she added.

Andrea Didericksen, a junior art major and frequenter buyer of the club’s produce, is equally skeptical about the discourse between students and the administration.

“The committee (for the stadium proposal) was given the task to research whether this proposal was a good idea – in my opinion they have simply begun the process of creating this stadium without the consent of the students,” Didericksen said.

The petition may represent a flourish of varying feelings, hopes and agendas, but according to Pace, it was never meant to be the pinnacle of the group’s efforts.

“Of course the petition is not about satisfaction or the quelling of fears,” she said. “How I look at it is the groundwork for what’s going to be a really long and really hard battle. It’s great that we’re getting support, but that doesn’t make everything okay.”

Indeed the outlook for the club would look anything but okay if the stadium squelches its land. It would cease to exist altogether. With stakes so high, no amount of Facebook likes will satisfy Goldstein and Pace’s efforts; the petition is merely the first line of their defense.

“Until we know for sure we’re safe, our voices will only get louder,” Pace said.

Collegian writer Colleen Canty can be reached at news@collegian.com.

Established in 1997, the Sustainable Development Club:
-offers fresh produce for sale by student volunteers on campus
-teaches students about environmentally sound and low-impact farming in an urban setting
-uses the gardens and plant research facilities on campus for research, teaching and experiments year-round
-is open to any student or community member with an interest in food self-production
-is self-funded

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