Who Needs a New Building?

In a world without the prospect of global warming, the plans for a new performing arts building might seem merely pricey and unnecessary. However, given that Reed’s greenhouse gas emissions are already high for a small college situated in a mild climate, the plan strikes me as downright extravagant. Reed’s performing arts faculty are excellent, but should students be taught that only a palatial building will give them the “appropriate respect” they deserve?” Thirty years ago, my peers and I in the chamber orchestra, Collegium Musicum, and dance groups were happy with what we had, and that was before the Vollum auditorium was finished, let alone Kaul Auditorium. A giant winter garden that “frames the view” is for whom, one might ask? The many students who want to conserve the beautiful Pacific Northwest and wider world? Despite green touches, the huge vertical and horizontal space and luxurious rehearsal areas would be heated and cooled using fossil fuels. Over the next years, scores of students will be choosing the new environmental studies major (a choice we did not have when my petition in 1979–80 for an environmental major was not accepted). Imagine, though, how improved the environmental studies program could be if some of the $38 million budgeted for a greenhouse gas–intensive arts complex were invested there instead.

—Susan Subak ’82

Washington, D.C.

Editor's Note: The architects assure us that the new building will be an icon of sustainability, employing natural lighting and heating whenever possible. For example, that winter garden will be illuminated by daylight and will double as the main ventilation pathway for the building. A “green roof” will dampen sound, reduce runoff, and improve thermal resistance. Sensors will eliminate wasted energy in unoccupied spaces, skylights will reduce dependence on electric light, bioswales will capture rainwater, and so on. For what it’s worth, your view about the adequacy of existing facilities was not shared by the late music professor Herb Gladstone, who long lamented the loss of Botsford Hall in 1962 and spent years agitating for a replacement [see In Memoriam]. The money for the building comes largely from donors who share Herb’s vision. Your point about the importance of environmental studies is unassailable, of course. Reed is proud of its new ES major and hopes to strengthen it further. We invite readers to contact the development office for more details.