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  • Getting to Green

    An administrator pushes, on a shoestring budget, to move his university and the world toward a more sustainable equilibrium.

Time and space
November 12, 2009 - 11:22am

During the academic year at Greenback, campus buildings alternate between "occupied" and "unoccupied" status. Our energy management system is programmed with the schedule of when we expect people to arrive at each building, takes steps to bring temperatures up to a reasonable level and the lighting on, and does the reverse at the end of the day. Building access is controlled by the same means, with doors locking and unlocking automatically. Of course, when we expect people to show up and -- especially -- when we expect them to depart varies by type of building and, among academic buildings, widely by program of study. (Art and architecture majors are notorious for pulling all-nighters in academic buildings, biology students often need round-the-clock access to their labs, that sort of thing.)

Recently, I was in a discussion with a couple of faculty members around this topic. The building at issue was an academic one, but not used by art, or architecture, or any of our traditional candle-at-both-ends departments. Still, one professor insisted that the building be kept in "occupied" status as late as possible, for reasons that weren't initially evident to me.

Turns out, he was defending the right of his students to procrastinate. At least, that's what I understood from what he said -- he didn't actually use the "p" word. But he did say that some of his students might need to write a paper or other assignment the night before it was due, and they might need a quiet place to work, and there was a particular study lounge in that building that he liked, or some of them liked, or somebody liked, so we needed to keep the heat on and the doors open. Anyways, that was his point (and he thought he had one).

So it got me wondering -- when did faculty start taking it upon themselves to defend student mediocrity? Do they really think that any paper, written in one draft the night (probably late the night) before it's due represents that student's best work? On the off chance that the student's high school teachers didn't deliver the "plan ahead, fool!" message clearly enough, doesn't it then fall to the professors to do the dirty deed? And even if teaching that particular life skill is too much to ask, should any responsible faculty member actively be paving the path to bad behavior?

I've just got to say -- I don't know what this older generation (and it was an older professor) is coming to.


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