As reported in PAW (On the Campus, July 10), the University is eviscerating and renaming Guyot Hall, moving out ecology and evolutionary biology and geosciences and moving in computer science. As an EEB alumnus pursuing a Ph.D. in oceanography, the change concerns me, partly for sentimental reasons but also due to the perception of a sinking baseline of academic focus on the study of the natural world.
Guyot Hall, named after Arnold Henry Guyot, foundational geology professor and significant figure in 19th-century science, is historically valuable to Princeton. This history, along with its biodiversity-themed external architecture and museum collection within, makes it the proper home of EEB and GEO. Moreover, Guyot’s connection with the molecular biology buildings to the south represents a holistic view of studying nature, melding the reductionist tools of the molecular and information revolutions with an integrative understanding of ecological and Earth systems.
Granted, the University’s plan for EEB and GEO includes improved labs in a new building. But letting them drift away from a hotspot of research activity signals that the University is turning from science that focuses outward on the real world and welcomes in the public with natural history exhibits. Instead, Princeton is consolidating its heart of silicon. Information technology is immensely valuable to science, but I hope the University better balances investigation of the real world and exploitation of the world of 1s and 0s. It’s too bad there aren’t any billionaire ecologist donors to make this point to Princeton.