Published: Friday, February 5, 2010
Updated: Monday, May 23, 2011 16:05
This week, students in the University Center had the opportunity to see in action the ReRev technology that the seniors voted to give to Furman as their class gift. As we report in our lead story, this technology captures the kinetic energy expended during exercise and converts it into electricity that can be fed into the University's electric grid. We have previously expressed our support for the recent steps Furman has taken to promote sustainability as a core institutional value. We do not, however, believe that the ReRev project contributes to these efforts. Our problem with ReRev is that it promotes aesthetics over impact, completely missing the point of why working toward sustainability is a worthwhile goal. Instead of conserving limited resources, this initiative squanders them by allocating the sizable sum of the senior gift to a project that offers no tangible benefit to either students or the community.
In the words of fitness center director Scott Murr, the ReRev equipment, though projected to cost up to $25,000, is not likely to "save the university any noticeable dollar amounts." The technology will, presumably, have to be maintained and probably replaced from time to time. More important, because the savings are so small, the project will not move us any closer toward achieving the University's long-term goal of carbon neutrality. Converting enough "human energy" from the average workout to charge a laptop seems much less impressive when these savings are considered against the scale of Furman's total energy needs. If we are serious about reducing our carbon footprint, surely there are lower-hanging fruits to consider first - even if such initiatives don't play as well in admissions brochures and development campaigns. Indeed, the incessant promotion of this sort of frivolous, high-cost and low-benefit project is a primary reason Furman's environmental initiatives have needed so much defending to skeptical students.
A class gift, we believe, should be of tangible benefit to either students or the community. Each of the recent class gifts - the Bridges to a Brighter Future scholarship, outdoor Dining Hall seating, a Habit for Humanity home - do this, as would have the other two proposals that were voted against this year (funding for a lake restoration project and a bike maintenance initiatives).
As important as this criterion is, even more so is one other: the gift should reflect the preferences of the graduating class. For this reason, we find it more than distasteful that the seniors' options were limited from the beginning by an administration that made clear its preference for a gift that honored Shi's legacy by promoting sustainability. To be clear, because the seniors voted for this project, we do not intend to dissuade anyone from donating. But in the future, the administration should refrain from interfering in class gift decisions.
In short, it seems to us that this project is little more than shallow gimmickry, a shiny showpiece designed to prove our University's commitment to sustainability that itself does little to contribute to the cause.