by Kevin Grams, May 22, 2016:
I’d like to suggest a few reasons why the sale of Pacific Union College (PUC) land is a bad idea:
- Toxic pollution. With this land sale, there will now be wineries right next to dormitories and faculty homes. Vintners and farmers are also aware that you have to treat your crops with some very powerful herbicides, pesticides and in the case of grapes, fungicides. Did anybody consider what effect exposure to these chemicals will have on the students, faculty and visitors to PUC’s campus? There were quite a few heated court battles in the 70’s and 80’s between farmers and their migrant workers due to toxic agricultural environments which eventually led to an improvement in worker conditions (e.g., protective gear had to be provided, emergency wash stations, lavatories, etc.). Now we’ve invited these toxins right onto the main campus.
- Consistency. I find it embarrassing that the PUC leadership is willing to sell land dedicated to the cause of God and the Seventh-day Adventist church to wineries—despite the fact that both the founder of Adventist education (Ellen White) and the church strongly oppose the consumption of alcohol in any form. The denomination’s stance on these issues has been proclaimed throughout the Napa Valley by evangelists, faculty and students for over a century. This startling change of opinion must be quite amusing to local winery owners and certainly does little to add credibility to the Adventist message. What sort of mental gymnastics were employed to justify this sudden reinterpretation of church beliefs and Ellen White’s counsels?
- Alumni disaffection. Think about all the students over the years who have hiked, jogged, mountain biked, and explored the gorgeous meadows, fields and forests that are now for sale. Over the years many of PUC’s alumni have enjoyed picnics, Sabbath walks, horseback riding and romantic strolls along these cherished lanes. Now the whole area is up for sale. One of the big drawing points of PUC is its outdoor recreation, scenic beauty and tranquil surroundings. Has the administration considered the cost of losing such distinction? Have they considered the loss of support from alumni who are shocked to see their favorite haunts from their college years sold off to the rich “one percenters” to make…wineries?
- Curricular/system stagnation and loss of identity. If PUC administrators are having a hard time meeting financial obligations now, what makes them so certain that things will be different once the money from the land sales is depleted? If the college is not recruiting enough students now, how is trampling their Adventist identity and the destruction of irreplaceable outdoor assets going to help the situation in the long run? Land sales simply forestall needed curricular changes and reforms by offering an easy answer (sell land to pay bills) instead of the prayerful introspection that is really needed. Another generation will have to deal with these challenges—but without the land assets that made PUC so special to previous generations. Successful schools don’t have to sell irreplaceable assets to make ends meet.
- History. Remember the old PUC sign that for many years was out in front of the campus? It said in big letters, “Pacific Union College: Where Nature and Revelation Unite In Education.” Just as society is rediscovering the need for nature, outdoor and adventure education, community farms, outdoor recreation, environmental sustainability and self-sufficiency, Adventists are abandoning these tenets that were once tirelessly advocated by key historic figures in Adventist education—Ellen White, Edward Sutherland, Goodloe Bell, Arthur Spaulding, William Prescott and others. Why are Adventists often lagging behind the pressing needs and interests of society when they should know better? It is common knowledge in Adventist historical circles how unhappy Ellen White was with the limited acreage around Battle Creek College. This is one of the reasons why she encouraged the purchase of PUC with its large acreage! Similar struggles occurred over land acquisitions at Loma Linda, Avondale, Walla Walla, Union College and other Adventist schools. Once you sell land assets you cannot get them back even if future administrators rediscover the reason the land was purchased in the first place.
- Restoring the Image of God motif. According to Ellen White, the philosophical reason for Adventist education is to facilitate the restoration of the image of God in humanity. Being outside in nature while observing the scenes of the Creator draw students closer to God—hence restoring the image of God. According to White, issues as diverse as drinking alcohol, endless studying in cramped quarters, sedentary living, and surrounding students with “the artificial” could result in marring this image of God. The environment around schools was an important component in this restoration process—hence White’s desire for vast natural acreage around schools. Such surroundings would improve learning and aid spiritual growth.
- Land is a unique, irreplaceable asset. None of the competing religious liberal arts colleges in the country has the unique Napa Valley land assets that PUC currently enjoys. I’m surprised the college’s administrators are so willing to give up an irreplaceable asset that has the potential to give them a unique approach to education that simply can’t be replicated anywhere else. This distinction should be a drawing card and maximized. Why is it that the leadership of PUC would prefer to hem in students with wineries, toxic sprays, noise and “No Trespassing” signs instead of offering them abundant hiking trails, natural beauty, outdoor recreation and biking opportunities more in line with the Adventist lifestyle?
After all, faculty and students don’t have 15 million dollars lying around like the top 1 percenters who could afford to buy a chunk of this land. PUC faculty work for wages far below that of the super-rich because they believe in the importance of Adventist education and what it stands for. Today, faculty and students alike have access to 50 million dollars’ worth of God-given land that a prophet had the foresight to preserve. If getting money is the only value that matters, why should I sacrifice my hard-earned cash for causes like PUC, Adventist Education and financing the ministry? Values are something that cannot be bought or sold. It seems to me that PUC has sold their values with their land and that is something I simply cannot support.