“Woe to those who join house to house,
who add field to field,
until there is no more room . . .” (Isaiah 5:8)
A month ago we read of the plans to sell the Rugby Pitch in The University News, and then we were told why selling Old Mill — now Tower Village — Apartments was a wise decision. Next, I suppose, we will be treated to a panegyric on the beauty of having the stand of woods next to Tower Village sold off and transformed into a gated, Lot-Hog housing development.
There are few things a small university in a growing urban area could do that are more short-sighted than selling off its land. If in 50 or 100 years the University of Dallas needs to expand, it will almost certainly be impossible or prohibitively expensive to buy back any of this property.
Perhaps we can learn from the mistake that Stanford University was prevented from making. The founder of Stanford University, Leland Stanford, owned dozens of square miles, far more than a university needs, but his widow had specified in her will that none of it could be sold. When the university fell on hard times during the depression, the trustees tried desperately to break that will.
Today, I daresay you will find no one at Stanford who isn’t glad that the trustees failed. Stanford has had room for huge, unforeseen expansion with much open country still left. It also has a shopping center and several Silicon Valley companies leasing property from them, a steady source of income, which by now is surely more than they would have gotten from selling it; plus, they still own the land.
Obviously, UD’s situation is not like Stanford’s. Having less land to begin with makes the idea of selling it all the more foolish.
One of the great advantages of selling the Rugby Pitch is that it will give UD a million dollars that will allow them to do . . . what? Cut down some more woods to build a new Rugby pitch. So the university will be surrounded house to house across Northgate and field to field on the other side. After all, this is Texas: we don’t need trees; we don’t need natural beauty. We don’t need woods to walk or run in, nor room for solitude. We have air-conditioned buildings to sit around in. Unfortunately, they do not include an adequate library.
Some 15 years ago, bulldozers showed up unannounced during finals week to clear the woods to make the far soccer fields. Neither faculty nor students were consulted beforehand, and as a result the biology department’s field research area was inadvertently destroyed. Continuing this long standing tradition of administrative heavy-handedness, UD’s last president offered the Guptas the possibility of building a hotel and conference center on the Rugby Pitch in what looks like a sweetheart deal to encourage them to donate for the SB building.
Fortunately, the trustees extended the option to buy for another year.
UD must, of course, keep its word and honor the agreement. The Guptas have indeed been extremely generous to UD; they clearly have the university’s best interest at heart. Perhaps, then, they can be persuaded to forgo their promised right to buy the Rugby Pitch, given that it will not be good for UD.