The office/parking garage article in the Jan. 20 Thresher indicates that Rice students are quite supportive of the new six-story office building and seven-level parking garage south of Allen Center. Similarly broad support was apparent from my communications with faculty and staff about concerns over the construction plans. Senior Rice administrators met with me and demonstrated that they had carefully designed the project to maximize benefit to the Rice community and minimize sustainability concerns. But darker concerns persist.
Campus buildings have a typical lifetime of 50 to 100 years. The new office building thus perpetuates our bloated bureaucracy — a major contributor to our large student tuition increase since 2001. The trend of universities creating bureaucratic empires by milking students through increased tuition has magnified the national student debt crisis. A plausible backlash may streamline university bureaucracies toward the spartan European tradition. The new office building could then be transformed gradually into classroom and study space.
In contrast, the parking garage will inevitably become an anachronism. Current Rice students, faculty and staff show strong loyalty to automobile transportation, which is a major contributor to climate change. Scientific breakthroughs will never make cars tolerable unless the human population is decimated. Already the confluence of climate change (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2015, vol. 112, p. 3241), overpopulation and consumerist ideology is creating an intractable geopolitical crisis: See George Soros’ Jan. 4, 2016 interview in WirtschaftsWoche, “Europa? Gibt’s doch nicht mehr,” and condensed translations.
The Rice community seems oblivious to these powerful forces shaping our future. Will our parochial optimism withstand the profound global instability that awaits us? Please think hard about the consequences of future building projects.
William K. Wilson
Department of Biosciences