Can Urban University Expansion and Sustainable Development Co-Exist? A Case Study in Progress on Columbia University

Article excerpt

     A. General Sustainability Measures
     B. Sustainability and University Expansion: The Developing
        Columbia University Experience
  I. Sustainability, Urban Areas, and Sustainable Development in
     A. Towards Defining Sustainability
     B. Urban Sustainability
 II. The Sustainability Roles of the Institution of Higher Learning
     A. Columbia as a Sustainable Educational Institution
        1. Sustainability Curriculum
        2. Green Campus: Learning in a Sustainable Environment
        3. The Expansion Project: Modernization of Construction
     B. A Modern Campus--Bigger is Better?
III. Localizing Sustainability: Identity in Sustainable Communities
     and the Dilemma of Urban Expansions
     A. Public Participation and Sustainability
        1. Do Universities, and Columbia in Particular, Have a
           Special Obligation to Pursue Meaningful Community
        2. Two Plans for Columbia's Expansion
        3. Public Participation Through a Community Benefits
        4. Public Engagement and the Use of Eminent Domain
     B. Displacement and Gentrification


The notion that our resource decisions should account for the needs of today without crippling future generations in their ability to make their own resource decisions (1) has captured models of corporate responsibility, land use planning, architecture, and even market assessments. Yet sustainability is not limited to environmental quality and natural resources. The concept of sugtainability and the approach that it embodies extends throughout our social and economic institutions and applies to, among other things, housing and transportation policies, agricultural practices and food production, public health and medicine, national and international governance, and education. Sustainability is becoming a critical measure of assessment for government, corporate, and business decision making.

A. General Sustainability Measures

The reason that sustainability has become so popular is undoubtedly related to the breadth of its governing principles. Sustainability is reflected, among other things, by the inclusiveness that can result from open and engaged public dialogue, in its resoluteness in seeking an equitable distribution of the benefits of resource use, and through the pluralism that follows the process of reconciling otherwise competing goals and perspectives. Sustainability is immediate and generational, consumptive and conservationist, and local and global. It strikes a chord of key quality of life factors in the public arena, and optimal long-term viable business considerations for the private sector.

The application of sustainability is no simple task. (2) The variability in what constitutes sustainability for different projects (e.g., geothermal power, subdivision, or timber sale), in different regions (depending on climate, population, and character), and in different settings (rural, suburban, or urban), appears to undermine the likelihood of identifying any universally applicable principles or standardization in application. Moreover, the notion that the traditionally competitive goals of economy, environment, housing, food, and population can be reconciled raises suspicions about the practicability of pursuing sustainable policies and projects. (3) Although such suspicions deserve consideration, it is important to note that sustainability is best understood as a process and a framework that acquires its meaning in particular contexts.

B. Sustainability and University Expansion: The Developing Columbia University Experience

This Article employs sustainability as a framework to analyze the recent physical expansion plans of Columbia University for the purpose of illustrating the complexities that arise in urban development and higher education practices, as well as the problems of trying to simultaneously implement both. …