Upon hearing Boston University’s plan to close the Sargent Center for Outdoor Education, I asked, ‘why’. The decision surprised me; the answer to my question didn’t. It’s the economy.
Given the economic environment that transpired over the past year, it makes perfect sense that BU would need to cut corners to meet its financial goals. As [Metropolitan College] Dean Halfond said in an internal memo released last week, the SCOE ‘has been a bustling operation, and, while generating enough revenue to cover its own immediate expenses, this income simply could not sustain a vast, seven-hundred-acre property in another state.’
As a BU alumnus, I can attest to the Dean’s observation that the SCOE delivers high-quality programs. On the contrary, I doubt the financial savings from its closure will balance the intangible losses BU will incur. Few realize the importance of the SCOE’s work and the scope of its impact, and I fear that President Brown and the administration have left our company. But their decision to close the SCOE won’t cut fat in the budget ‘-‘- it will sever a healthy limb of the institution.
The SCOE stresses ‘education in, about and for the outdoors.’ Global warming, energy and other burgeoning environmental concerns highlight the importance of such education. Quick, creative thinking is vital in both academia and the workplace, and the SCOE’s staff members are experts at teaching it. As leaders in the field of experiential education, they practice a progressive pedagogy touted by peer institutions and practiced in countless classrooms around the country.
Thus, questions remain: Why is my alma mater electing to shutter a culturally significant and academically efficacious piece of the institution, particularly as green collar jobs are predicted to increase and other universities expand similar programs? Is President Brown willing to dull BU’s competitive edge and pare down the student experience in an attempt to line its empty coffers with a different kind of green?
I, for one, certainly hope not.