In Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, houses were sold with the promise of a beach side pool and golf course. Now in Todos Santos, Mexico, houses are being offered with the promise of Colorado State University.
Two years ago, the CSU administration accepted a deal that would put them in the footprint of a major housing development looking to transform the small town of Todos Santos into a tourist destination, with sustainability, farming and ecotourism as its main selling points. The University accepted a facility built by the housing developer MIRA where the University could conduct research, workshops and other community activities.
Yet this donation that CSU officials have called a great opportunity has proven to be problematic. To clarify, it is not a gift: It is an agreement that in part makes the University accountable for maintaining the image of the controversial housing development, Tres Santos.
Seeing the affects from Cabo, where communities were diminished and lost in the shadow of major developments, some residents from Todos Santos have come to see Tres Santos as a development that could be environmentally, socially and economically harmful to the small oasis community that was isolated from the rest of the peninsula for generations.
The activist group Truth Santos has proven to be a strong voice against Tres Santos, calling into question the company’s intentions and permits while also raising concerns about the possible environmental impacts associated with a development that could drain the town of precious resources such as water.
At the same time, Truth Santos has questioned the role of Colorado State University, who they claim is an amenity meant to make the possibly harmful development more palatable.
In response to this group, the housing development has downplayed the concerns of Truth Santos and has called them a group on the extreme side of activism. While investigating this story, Collegian reporters have faced situations where the two sides have claimed the other is wrong.
It is difficult when our own University is thrown into a dispute where credibility is sometimes the only factor in judging what may be fact or fiction. CSU is supposed to be an institution where knowledge and academic values trump business. Yet, even if the claims of Truth Santos prove to be exaggerated, the documents they obtained show a side of CSU mostly unknown to the public, a side willing to work in tandem with a private company that is first and foremost concerned about its bottom line.
While on the base level, the academic involvement of students, researchers and teachers could have beneficial impacts on the community, they are driven by a business connection that could alter our University’s ability to be autonomous in the pursuit of research and academics.
Furthermore, it is a connection that could redefine the goals of a public university existing in an era where the state and public consistently under-fund higher education. This situation calls into question what it takes for an academic institution to thrive in an era where state and public funding is minimal.
Although having a Mexican campus and facility looks great on a brochure for prospective students, a partnership this problematic lessens the credibility of our institution and reduces our name to the level of a marketing ploy.
The Collegian Editorial Board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.