Visitors to the Friday Harbor Labs in 2020 will find we have some new staff, some old staff in new positions, and an overall positive vibe about the place. We are excited about the directions we are going and the personnel we have to take us there! Returning visitors may notice that we have added some new fees for coming to FHL for research, classes, and conferences. In the interest of transparency, I wanted to provide some context for these changes. Prior to this year, facility use fees and lab fees have not been changed for many years, although we raised housing and food costs in 2019. Over those same years, the state support of UW has declined and our lovely facilities have not gotten any younger nor our staff any cheaper, with the result that our infrastructure needs a lot of work, as does our budget. The College of the Environment and Central campus facilities have helped fund significant expensive projects such as a new sewer lift station and new freezer for the Dining Hall, as well as some staffing needs, but the UW campus as a whole is in the same state as FHL, with years of deferred maintenance.
To deal with these combined challenges we are working to do more with less, and our amazing Advancement Board has been helping out hugely with student funding and buying us a research vessel — but these funding sources do not cover basic facilities and processes to make the Labs run. Fees must repair water mains and cabin roofs, buy microscopes and upgrade the wireless system, replace rowboats and change water filters… even cover ‘ordinary’ but time-consuming staff processes like ordering and shipping. As Paul Simon said, “Everything put together sooner or later falls apart” – we are fighting that entropy!
Probably many of you have spent time at other institutions where you feel “nickel-and-dimed” to death with small charges. We want to avoid that – no one wants to have to pay for every petri dish or gram of common chemicals, or to ‘rent’ a rowboat or a microscope. We are thus instituting across-the-board Facility and Tech fees that scale with type of housing unit and length of stay. We are working to buffer the financial impact on students who come for courses by charging them lower rates, and on student-researchers by encouraging all to apply for fellowship funding to defray these increases. I anticipate that users who know and love this place will understand that we are doing what is necessary to keep FHL functioning. We are truly optimistic about FHL’s future as a premier institution that supports education, research, and outreach in marine sciences – and these rate increases are supporting that mission. Thanks for your understanding; we appreciate your support.
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