The growing dome given tentative approval by Student Senate winter term is not expected to be in place until next academic year, although the conversation and research will continue until that time.
Last term, Senate set aside $40,000 of the Special Meeting of the Use of the Restricted Fund (SMURF) money to build a growing dome in an effort to increase sustainable, healthy food options. However, both Senate and the Knox administration have agreed to slow talks to make sure that every aspect of the undertaking is thoroughly examined.
“There’s a certain caution in moving forward with a large project like this,” sophomore Max Potthoff, Chair of the Sustainability Committee, said. “Everyone mutually agrees that it would be rushing things to make an investment like this just to do it.”
Potthoff and senior Sara Ahmed, Senate treasurer and SMURF co-chair, is confident that the administration is not walking away from the dome.
“Since this is a really expensive project, we want to make sure we cover every angle,” Ahmed said.
Visiting Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Nic Mink, one of the project’s major proponents, agrees it “doesn’t make any sense” to impose deadlines on a project of this magnitude.
“Our most important thing moving forward right now is a feasibility study,” he said. “Our next step will be some direct communications between [President] Teresa Amott and the students and student government. That should be taking place in the next couple of weeks.”
The company contracted to build the dome, Growing Spaces, of Pagosa Springs, Colo., states in its company mission a desire to share organic gardening, green corporate practices and healthy lifestyles — teachings that Mink sees as an important focus for Knox to develop in attracting new students.
“There are more and more interest in these issues from high school students, and more importantly, from their families,” Mink said.
Although some critics of the dome see it as nothing more than a “$40,000 salad bar,” post-baccalaureate Helen Schnoes, one of the original proposers of the dome, does not see that as a bad thing.
“If we could convert the entire salad bar, think of what a mark that would make in our cafeteria, even just the marketing of it,” she said.
Schnoes also sees the dome as an opportunity to speak to food issues in Galesburg, a sentiment echoed by Ahmed.
“We can have high school or middle school or elementary school come and learn in the center,” Ahmed said. “It’s educational infrastructure. I don’t see it as a waste of money.”
Students continue to question whether a growing dome would be the best use of college funds.
Sophomore Erin Cannon found it “a little odd” that Knox would be focusing on sustainability with academic departments like Classics struggling to get by.
Junior Alejandro Varela would be supportive as long as his tuition did not increase, although he thought that more money should be going toward on-campus housing.
“I heard next year we’re going to get an even bigger class,” he said. “Where are you going to put all these people coming in? That’s a serious question.”
Freshman Allison Lewis wondered why Knox is not taking smaller steps toward sustainability.
“I think we should get rid of Styrofoam, but that’s just me,” she said.
Senior Elizabeth Cockrell, a member of the growing dome committee created by SMURF, believes that the dome would be a good thing.
“It’s something our institution should be striving for,” she said.
Freshman Manuel Orellana said that although he does not know exactly what Knox should be spending money on, the growing dome is a step in the right direction.
“We need to be more green on this campus,” he said.
Mink is not worried about a possible loss of support over the summer months, especially with the recent Paul Greenberg talk, local burger nights and the hiring of a Sustainability Coordinator.
“Students here are continually bombarded with food messages and messages about sustainability,” he said.
Schnoes hopes that Knox can take even more steps toward a greener, more sustainable campus.
“I think we need to look at all opportunities we have to reform our food sourcing practices to be just as sustainable and healthy as we can,” she said.