I write regarding the manner of the removal of the bee-hive between Seymour Union and the Library on the May 5, 2010. My understanding is that upon being notified of its existence, an element of the administration decided it to be a liability to student well-being and had the bees eradicated. This decision angers me, and it suggests to me a fundamental divergence between Knox’s purported philosophy and its actions. I will explain my point of view.
In my mind, at the heart of a liberal arts curriculum is a willingness to understand seemingly distinct objects and phenomena as interrelated aspects of a holistic system. Knox College excels at this pursuit academically. It demands that students examine the ramifications of the works of both themselves and others in contexts, which extend beyond the confines of the classroom and enable understanding of the human culture as a whole. My outrage at the killing of these bees stems from my inability to conceive of this action as congruent with a manner of living engendered by a liberal arts education.
The fact of the matter is that bee populations in the United States have declined drastically in recent years. If the biological sciences have taught us anything, it is that ecosystems are highly complicated systems in which slight perturbations from equilibrium can have massive and irreparable effects on all forms of life. Knox’s recent contribution to this effect, coupled with its continued lack of significant progress toward sustainability, begin to paint a picture of an institution which is content with simple, short-term solutions to its problems rather than interested in understanding its actions as relevant to the larger context in which it exists.
I understand the necessity of keeping students safe, and a beehive along a campus thoroughfare poses something of a safety hazard; however, it seems highly unlikely that the bees would have threatened anyone who approached them with the appropriate respect. When I suggested this to a faculty member with whom I watched the bees build their nest, she remarked that she had more faith in the bees than in the students to maintain peaceful coexistence. Furthermore, I’ve heard anecdotal evidence to suggest that on the night of May 4, the bees were building their nest high in the tree, where they would have posed no risk to anyone, before their intended hive was knocked down by students intentionally throwing rocks. If Knox College neither can trust its own students to live with respect for their environment nor is willing to explore responsible means of alleviating risks the environment poses, I am forced to question the degree to which it can actually claim to believe in its intended purpose.
Knox’s Statement of Mission espouses that the college strives to challenge its students “to explore, understand, and improve ourselves and our world,” yet it seems to refer to only the human world; nowhere in this statement is even an implicit reference made to the natural environs in which the college is situated, which in my mind, is the primary context in which the college exists. I view the short-sightedness Knox has exhibited in this instance to be systemic of the paradigm of self-centered quick-fixes which perpetuate every social, economic, and ecological crisis this planet currently faces. If Knox wishes to live up to its purported mission of understanding and improvement, I feel it is forced to act in the future with greater concern and prudence.