College of Charleston officials should provide solid evidence that 10 trees around Randolph Hall are harmful to the historic structure before they proceed with plans to cut them down. That was the clear message from students and faculty members at a "Save the Trees" rally Thursday.
Faculty members and students who don't want the four Southern magnolias, four Savannah hollies and two palm trees in the Cistern Yard cut down unless it's absolutely necessary organized the lunch-time campus rally.
About 100 students and faculty members attended. Protesters, some of whom were brandishing "Save the Trees" signs, also complained that college officials unilaterally made the decision to cut down the trees, without getting input from the rest of the campus community.
"They're cutting some trees down and they haven't told us anything," said junior Luke Wilson.
College officials said a team of professionals working on renovations to Randolph Hall have said the 10 trees, which are planted close to the building, prevent light and air from circulating around the building's facade. That creates a moist environment that promotes organic growth and damages woodwork and masonry.
School officials have said the trees were planted sometime after Hurricane Hugo hit the area in the late 1980s.
Matt Gregory, another junior, said he's upset that students weren't included in the decision. "Of course we want to save the trees," he said, "but this also represents something bigger."
The school, he said, "has lost credibility because the reason (for cutting down the trees) hasn't been validated."
Phil Dustan, an ecologist and professor in the Department of Biology, said he needs scientific evidence the trees are causing moisture problems that damage the building. "If it's true they really are damaging the building, then we'll have to remove them," he said. "Otherwise, they bring grace and beauty" to the Cistern Yard.
Some students also said they were angry that they were not notified about a Thursday morning meeting with project architects and Monica Scott, vice president of facilities planning. That meeting was announced on the faculty and staff electronic distribution lists, but the notice wasn't sent to students. Several of about 70 people who attended the meeting, however, were students, officials said.
Drew Wham, a graduate student, said "what we're asking is for the college to just come and talk to the students."