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January 2, 2012

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Lecture Series/ Krune Building

Last Thursday I began attending a lecture series at Yale in the School of forestry and Environmental Science. It was strange, returning to where I spent four years of my life over twenty-five years ago. Funny thing about it is, when I was an undergraduate, I never stepped foot in that building, or for that matter did I venture into that part of the university altogether. Science hill is the area of the university where the math, science folks went, and I was an artsy, writing guy.So we drove up to Science Hill, got out of the car and headed into the F&ES building. Harassed only one person for directions, and we entered Bowers Auditorium, where, oddly enough, it reminded me of being in a lecture hall in college. The only differences were 1) there were refreshments in the back, and 2) after grabbing a cup of coffee, I sat towards the front because I was actually interested in being there. The lecturer was Gus Speth, the Dean of the F&ES. His introducer went through the many incredible things Speth has done in his career, then ta-da, Speth stepped up to the podium, and to be totally honest about it, gave a pretty mediocre lecture. Not to say he’s a bad lecturer, but the topic was pretty dull. It was about the multiple administrative difficulties he faced over the previous 5 years getting the University to capitulate to the building of the new Krune building, and on the gloriousness of the plan for the building.I learned a lot about the resistance to new ideas during the lecture even within a supposed bastion for new ideas. Speth seemingly engaged in the academic form of open warfare with the temporary provost of the University for a multi-year stretch. After finally outlasting the temp, he actually got what he wanted, which was to have the university agree to get rid of the Pierson-Sage power plant, virtually an energy dinosaur, which of course, sat adjacent to where the Krune building is to be built. Throughout the lecture there were several references to the environmentally ground-breaking nature of the building and how those element will provide leadership for the rest of the university and the community at large to move toward a “greener” future. And I sat there and thought about it for a long time, and I realized this is exactly what is wrong with universities and right with them at the same time.Let’s tackle what’s right first. The Krune building is a brilliant building. Brilliant design, brilliant lighting, floor plan, usage of renewable energy sources. All that good stuff. Further, it is in some respects a beacon, a lighthouse offering direction through the fog of grants and red tape and construction costs and varying reports on the virtues of different forms of fuels and energy and passive solar design and fuel cells… on and on and on. Further,

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