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Op-ed: Nahant needs to work with MSC

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Op-ed: Nahant needs to work with MSC

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For three years, Northeastern’s Marine Science Center has been one of the most academically formative places for me. I participated in the Three Seas program and completed two co-ops and several research projects at the center. I taught at the Johnson School, Nahant’s elementary school, as part of the Marine Science Center, or MSC, outreach program, and worked with countless Nahant residents through open houses and outreach events. Through these experiences, I have developed the utmost respect for the town of Nahant and the MSC, which is why I support the center’s proposed expansion.

Northeastern doesn’t intend to ruin East Point, the center’s location in Nahant. The MSC needs more space to conduct new, innovative marine research. Our labs are tiny and crowded; there is not enough work or staff space on campus. For example, the research group I am in has eight active researchers and only five workstations. Sometimes, I don’t have enough lab space to do my research and I have to eat lunch on the floor. We clearly need more room to function, which is what motivates the proposed expansion.

I am frustrated by the negative reaction to the MSC’s proposed expansion, but I am not upset that Nahant residents oppose the plan. Instead, I am angry that at those who are spreading false information — such as on the Instagram @StopNortheasternExpansion — and attacking members of the MSC who have nothing to do with the expansion. I want to correct the false information that Arianna Billias, a fifth-year communication studies major and Nahant native, used in a recent op-ed to argue against the MSC’s expansion:

– The expansion was not introduced on the MSC website, which is what Billias said. According to MSC Outreach Director Carole McCauley, Northeastern introduced the plan to elected officials, and then announced it to the Nahant public at a town hall meeting.

–  Northeastern is not publicizing much information about the MSC because the university still has to finalize most of its plan.  From what I understand, the MSC is currently evaluating various alternatives, which is why it hasn’t made a decision yet.

–  The proposed plans will have minimal environmental impact.  While it’s impossible to have zero impact, we are not trying to destroy pristine habitat, which some in the Nahant community are implying.  We are conservation scientists, after all.

– 60,000 square feet of space won’t leave a footprint of the same size. The MSC’s expansion will minimize its impact by building a low-rise structure on top of an existing bunker.

While I understand why some Nahant residents are concerned, I want them to consider how the tone of their protests affect the MSC’s response. When Nahant residents spread misinformation and attack student research summaries on Facebook , the MSC will react defensively. For example, some residents are saying the water discharge from the MSC has raised Nahant ocean temperatures. But it is not physically possible for the amount of water discharged to have this effect given the volume of the discharge relative to the volume of the ocean surrounding Nahant. I am troubled by Nahant’s actions.

I ask Nahant residents to do two things:

1) Do not protest MSC students and research staff, because we are not making the decisions.

2) Use facts from reputable, accessible and cited sources. We all want to have a productive conversation, which is difficult when the MSC is overwhelmingly disrespected. By using uncited facts, there is no opportunity for the MSC to react in a way that appears credible, removing our opportunity to have productive conversation.  We aren’t trying to be the bad guys, we simply cannot get our opinions heard effectively.

For more information on the Marine Science Center expansion, please visit Northeastern’s website.

Sean Osborne is a fourth-year marine biology major.

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Op-ed: Nahant needs to work with MSC