Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Rooftop garden closure is a disappointment for Denison community

For The Denisonian's Forum section
Sept. 17, 2013

Rooftop Garden shut down by administration

  This time last year, The Denisonian ran a Feature article about a new rooftop garden on campus. Fast forward to today and the rooftop garden is now shut down.

   The student organization, PEAS (People Endorsing Agricultural Sustainability) was growing sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, Thai basil, lemon basil and cantaloupe on the roof of Curtis dining hall.
  The project was funded through a grant called the John R. Hunting Environmental Venture Fund which provides money for sustainability-related projects on campus.
  Sodexo and Denison Dining Services were completely behind the project and were excited to see where it would go in the future.

PEAS members water and harvest the rooftop garden, last year. 
  Over the summer, a meeting was called with the leaders of PEAS to discuss the future of the rooftop garden. It was decided that the rooftop garden was unsafe because of the lack of safety railing around the roof and because there is a high voltage electrical box on the roof. To install the necessary safety precautions would cost thousands of dollars and were deemed too expensive. Within one meeting, months and months of PEAS members’ hard work, dedication, and persistence were crushed. Bon Apetite was present at this meeting and were willing to help the rooftop garden continue. But the administration said no.
  PEAS is now working on removing the garden boxes and relocating the plants.

  When I heard about this, I was really bothered. It seemed unfair for University officials to decide a year later that the rooftop garden was unsafe. Why was the project allowed to happen if the University was concerned about lack of safety rails?
I thought this was a fantastic project, and was impressed that after years and years of talking about building one, it was finally happening. I even went up on the roof and saw the garden myself. It’s pretty neat to see vegetables growing on a roof.
 I understand that Denison does not want a lawsuit from a student injured by being on the roof. That’s fine. No one wants a lawsuit. What I don’t understand is why this issue of safety wasn’t brought up before the garden began.
  This was by no means a secret garden. The PEAS leaders jumped through many of Denison’s bureaucratic hoops to make this dream a reality. The university fully knew about the project all of last year.
  
  The mission of Denison University is “to inspire and educate students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents, and active citizens of a democratic society.” The courageous PEAS students who built this rooftop garden were being everything Denison wants us to be. They were critical thinkers by recognizing that the dining halls could benefit from locally grown herbs and vegetables. They were moral agents by sharing a campus responsibility to bring about environmental change. They were active citizens committed to making our campus more sustainable. So why were they reprimanded for completing a project that not only benefitted the community but also embodied the Denison mission statement?  

  I’m very sad to say goodbye to the rooftop garden because it was such a wonderful idea for our community and was not used to it’s fullest potential during it’s short lifespan.