Boulder, Colorado is, without question, one of the most beautiful cities on Earth. Tucked away in the shadows of the iconic Flatirons at the foot of the Rocky Mountains, Boulder is home to a world class university, seemingly unlimited outdoor activities, and a tech boom that is fast catching up with Silicon Valley’s.
The city is also home to some of the most eccentric people on the planet. Known colloquially as “The People’s Republic of Boulder,” it is something of a liberal oasis, evidenced in some genuinely head-scratching ways. Within the city limits, pet owners are not actually “owners,” but rather “guardians,” so as to protect the domesticated animals’ autonomy… or something like that. (We do wonder if this designation grants puppies Second Amendment rights.)
In addition to being home to the University of Colorado’s flagship campus, Boulder is home to Naropa University, the only fully accredited Buddhist-inspired college in America. At Naropa, students major in subjects ranging from Contemplative Psychology, to Traditional Eastern Arts, to Peace Studies, among others. It is by no means a traditional form of education, and we doubt many Naropa graduates take 9-to-5 accounting jobs following graduation, but hey, perhaps that’s part of their path to enlightenment!
Unfortunately, Naropa’s idyllic campus is facing a real world issue, and nobody knows what to do. Here’s the story:
In 2004, the university purchased 2.5 acres of land for future expansion. Within a couple of years, prairie dogs had effectively occupied the land, burrowing over 200 tunnels that covered the entire premises.
As Naropa moved forward with their expansion plans, the question of what to do with the furry rodents came to the forefront. As David Kelly of the Los Angeles Times remarked, “Killing them seemed out of character for a university dedicated to Buddhist precepts of compassion and a motto of ‘First do no harm.’ So they did nothing.”
That is, until this month. After years of unsuccessful attempts to relocate the animals, Naropa recently applied for a “lethal control permit,” which would, well, put an end to the matter.
The reaction in Boulder was what one might expect: dramatic.
People FREAKED OUT. Protests erupted, animal welfare groups went to DEFCON 1, and the Dalai Lama’s office was inundated with calls.
Opposition was so swift, so universal, so quintessentially Boulder, that Naropa quickly withdrew their extermination application, and in the process again postponed their plans to expand the university. The school is home to 1,100 students, and is apparently more than ready to grow further, but such elevated learning will have to wait until the prairie dogs are found a suitable home.
As the property owner, Naropa certainly has the right to do what they will with the rodents on their land. But at the same time, even though Americans don’t enjoy the same freedom of speech they once did, they still have the right to protest. Especially in Boulder.
Personally, we’d recommend the university bring in professional advice: Carl Spackler.
What are your thoughts? Should the Buddhist university be able to move forward with expanding their campus, or should the community continue to protest because it violates the animals’ rights? Sound off on Facebook, or share your thoughts on Twitter.