Blaise Pascal, Penseé 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Campus Wide Info on the Tree Cutting

There is an enormous email exchange going on today pertaining to the destruction of trees in what I will just call “the Peters parking lot.” In this blog, I will try to organize some of this material.

1. On Lack of Consultation:

Three committees should have been consulted before the trees east of Peters and Science I were cut down. These are as follows:

Arboretum Subcommittee:

 “…to review and make recommendations to the Campus Planning Committee concerning all campus landscape plans and new plantings….to provide a clear and understandable process for review of items submitted and to evaluate those items within the context of its charge”. 

 Sustainability Subcommittee:

“… advice on sustainable practices in land use, building design, operations, teaching and learning, and transportation as well as other key areas”.

Facilities and Campus Environment Liaison (FACEL) Committee:

Consultation and review on all planning for University facilities that impact the campus, its academic programs, and its environment.
2. Consultation and review of all Capital Outlay programs, priorities, and implementation.
3. Consultation and review of general maintenance and operations planning issues affecting campus facilities and environment.

As far as I can find out, none of these committees were consulted. In fact, the committee members I heard from by email were shocked. See the following link for more details on these committees:

2. The Campus is an Arboretum

Since 1979 Fresno State’s campus has been designated an arboretum. See this link:

This area in the parking lot, and the campus in general, has been used by professors in biology as a lab area.

Fresno State was included in a list of “green” college campuses:

3. Thoughts About the Future

I quote the following wise suggestions from one email:

1. As is being done, publicize a flawed administrative process that leaves out (no pun intended) the true campus community in making such decisions.
2. Assure that the process is changed. Administrators always argue that a faculty representative on this or that committee is appropriate consultation.*  Not so. These issues should be brought before the campus senate for a vote to recommend or not recommend without appropriate changes.  Yes, it is an academic senate, but the environment in which teaching and learning occurs is an important element, even though not determinative of academic success. What is important is that the campus as a whole is made aware of such environmental issues so that decisions are not made quietly with dollars and cents as the main criterion.
3. Require that mature, environmentally sensible, fast growing and strong trees be planted in the new lot with appropriate irrigation. The economic thing would be to plant saplings that will not significantly improve the air for a decade or more. If we can afford to build a parking lot, rather than a structure as many other campuses have done, then we can afford to build it sensitively. 
4.  Also assure that 'green' walking areas with trees be provided so it doesn't appear we have a typical strip mall parking lot.

I must say, I’m not as sanguine about this being a “flawed administrative process.” It seems all too probable that the people in charge knew the faculty would never agree to cutting down the trees in the Peters Lot and decided to go ahead in the most clandestine manner possible. I doubt that serious communication about this was ever meant to occur, and I base this on the last year’s experience regarding the Budget Task Force and the logo. Now, we will have another case of “declarative consultation,” in which the administration explains to us that we were consulted. With that bit of caviling, I believe this writer’s suggestions are good ones and ought to be seriously considered.

4. Media Coverage

This got some attention from the Bee. Several TV stations, including Channels 26, 30, and 47 interviewed various professors. There may be a story on the Channel 26 News tonight [May 24] at 10.

One of my correspondents tried to put up pictures of the cut trees on the University Facebook page. She reports she did this three times, and each time they disappeared, or one might say, became disappeared.

On Friday May 25, the Fresno Bee's front page had the lead article with a big picture of the parking lot. Here's a link to the front page:

Fresno Bee Front Page

Fresno Bee Front Page article link: Fresno Bee: Fresno State Faculty Protests Decision to Clear 160 Mature Trees by Barbara Anderson

A very important part of this article is the statement, below, by Amy Armstrong. From everything I've heard from people on FACEL or the Arboretum Committee, she is wrong about this, but this issue obviously needs to be pinned down:

Armstrong said faculty members on two committees -- campus planning and the facilities and campus environment liaison committee -- were consulted about the redesign for parking lots A and J. Those lots were chosen because they had a lot of potholes and were in bad condition, she said.
There will not be solar panels over parking stalls, such as in the lot just to the south, she said. The redesign will increase the number of parking spaces from 1,357 to 1,957.
The $4 million project, funded through student parking fees, is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 15, which is in time for the start of the fall semester, the university said.
The committee members were told the trees had to go and ponding basins had to be filled in to maximize the space and create the most parking, Armstrong said. The planning process started early in the spring semester, and there were no objections, she said.
Does anyone know what Armstrong could have meant by "campus environment liaison committee"?

Hard upon the appearance of the Bee article:

Read more here:

5. Message from President Welty

On May 25 at 9 a.m, the following "Message from President Welty regarding parking lot" was put on Bulletin Board by Cindy Matson:
I have received a number of expressions of concerns about the current parking lot renovation that includes the removal of trees and the replanting of others.  Though this project was vetted with a number of campus constituencies over the course of months of planning, its implementation came as a surprise to some.  That was not our intent. After reviewing this project, it is clear there was insufficient discussion and we need to review the consultation process on major renovation projects. I will consult with Academic Senate Chair Lynn Williams and the Senate Executive Committee on the consultation process that is applicable to projects of this nature.

Please be assured that the renovation will include a re-forestation and that we will be seeking the advice of our campus constituencies as we move forward.

Please see Vice President Cynthia Teniente-Matson's information on the project, below.


From Cynthia Matson, Vice President for Administration/CFO

The life of a dynamic campus includes making changes to meet new needs. One growing need – repeatedly identified by campus and community groups – is for more parking. Unfortunately when it comes to parking, there often is no “best” solution to accommodate the needs of students (our largest parking user group), faculty, staff and visitors.

The parking program operations and lots are completely funded by fees and fines. No general fund support is provided. With the declining enrollment and lack of parking fee increases from faculty and staff, revenues have been insufficient, leading to deferred maintenance in many of the lots.   Some lots have significantly deteriorated and the lots in the poorest conditions desperately need repair. The original parking plan contemplated a parking structure in this area, however a more-economical solution was necessary to minimize the parking fee increase to our students. Therefore, lots are being repaired and expanded, where practical, in lieu of a parking structure.
Our current parking project addresses two critical issues: the need for more student parking and the need to improve safety in parking lots. In the construction project under way this summer in Lots A, J and UBC on the east side of the Peters Business Building, we are adding more spaces, replacing trees, and improving lighting and security.
The $4 million project, funded through student parking fees, is scheduled to be completed by Aug. 15, just before the start of the 2012-13 academic year. Construction and maintenance projects across campus typically are scheduled during the summer and winter breaks to cause the least disruption to students as possible.
While short-term impacts of tree removal, traffic redirection, and temporary closure of parking lots are disruptive, long-term benefits of the project are important for students, faculty, staff and the community. The lots provide close access to the University Business Center and the Joyal Administration, Conley Art, Peters Business and Science buildings.

Safety was a top priority in designing the new space. The previous design of the three lots posed many public safety challenges. Thoughtful placement of 150 new trees is designed to provide unobstructed line of sight for five security cameras. Five emergency phones also will be placed within the new parking lot.
The three lots, which currently have a combined 1,357 spaces, will become one contiguous lot with approximately 1,900 spaces aligned in an easy-to-navigate, two-way traffic access pattern throughout. Several dry ponding basins will be removed. The project also includes road and intersection improvements around the area.

An extra-wide walkway will be constructed to connect the lot with the existing walkway south of the Peters Building. This follows the Campus Master Plan vision of connecting the east and west sides of campus with a continuous pedestrian thoroughfare.

While 160 trees were removed, 150 trees will be planted within the lot. Trees will remain around the perimeter. Plans call for Chinese pistache trees, chosen for their vivid fall colors and high canopy (helping security camera views), amongst other tree varieties.
Some of the trees removed were diseased, but healthy crape myrtles were uprooted and saved. Trees that were removed were mulched for future use throughout campus.

The project is on a tight deadline that required coordination of funding with completion by the beginning of the fall semester to minimize disruption. American Paving Co. is the contractor.

Discussions of Lots A and J and the proposed financing were held with the President’s Student Lunch Group, Campus Planning Committee, Student Fee Advisory Committee and the Academic Senate’s Facilities and Campus Environment Liaison Committee.

When complete, the project brings the total number of parking spaces on campus to 8,280.

Progress reports on the project will be posted at

6. On May 25 at 1:10 PM the following email came from Provost Covino:

Dear Colleagues, 

Please see the messages from President Welty and Vice President Matson below, and note the President's commitment to review the consultation process for major renovation projects and make warranted changes.   I look forward to working with him, with my Cabinet colleagues, and with you on this as we move forward.


William A. Covino
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs
California State University, Fresno

1 comment: