Wednesday, October 28, 2009

"I'm transferring"

What's in a name? At the University of Kentucky, a dorm renovation funded by a gift with strings attached to the name is raising controversy. Donors from the coal industry are putting up $7 million and insisting that the dorm for basketball players include "coal" in its name.

Ironically, as this article from the Lexington Herald-Leader points out, the renovation will earn the building LEED certification, and presumably be responsible for less coal getting burnt than the campuses other buildings as a result.

Still, the name makes a statement. Before too long, that statement will probably be something to the effect of "coal was part of our state's heritage." But right now, in this time of great transition, it says "we support coal, a dying industry that threatens our well-being and civilization."

As the student protests and claims of "I'm transferring" demonstrate, this move is a huge reputational risk, and as students are increasingly making college decisions based on commitment to sustainability (and relevance in the 21st century) I'm sure before long, the Trustees will realize the risk was not worth $7 million.

Stay going.

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