At 6 p.m. March 21, all of us at Fort Lewis College received an email from President Dene Thomas announcing the frustrating and disturbing, but not shocking, news that the funding request for our long-awaited geosciences, physics and engineering building was rejected yet again by the Joint Budget Committee, despite being high on the Capital Development Committee’s priority funding list.
Once again, rural education funding needs have been put on the back burner in favor of Front Range projects. And yet this new building is desperately needed at FLC. All of the classroom scheduling takes place in my office. It is an ongoing frustration to all parties (faculty, department chairs, the classroom scheduler) to try to fit all the science classes into every available space. Scheduling science classrooms is an endless conundrum at FLC! More detailed information about the proposed new building and the compelling need for it can be found at www.fortlewis.edu/president/NewGPEBuildingPlan.
FLC’s science and engineering faculty is excellent. They have influenced and produced many very successful students. But far too many of our science classrooms and labs now are woefully inadequate, outdated and crowded. Our students and faculty are worthy of much more than this, and so is our community.
The influence of modern, up-to-date science facilities can go far beyond the classroom. I think of my own father, a wonderful university chemistry professor for nearly 50 years. As a curious child exploring the science building where he worked, I grew up surrounded by science and all the amazing labs, equipment, classrooms and display areas that a large university can so much more easily provide. I was fascinated by the Foucault pendulum, geology mini-museums, large geologic map displays, atomic model exhibits and especially the astronomical observatory at the top of the building. This environment had a lasting and profound effect on me and on the other children growing up in our community.
I hope that we, both as a college and as a community, will not give up, but will continue to let our rural voices be heard.