During Thursday’s University Senate meeting, university President Darryll Pines called the response to the development of Guilford Woods more of an “emotional” or “political” issue, rather than a scientific one.

The sentiment comes amid heightened backlash against the proposed Western Gateway development, which would transform Guilford Woods into affordable graduate student housing. Many community members have raised concerns about the deforestation that could come as a result of construction.

During a short Q&A at the senate meeting, a representative from the geology department voiced environmental concerns about the development, asking Pines how the project aligns with university goals.

In response, Pines stressed the importance of affordable graduate student housing. Graduate Gardens and Graduate Hills have been the only complexes for graduate students for years, Pines said.

“If you listen truly to the technical arguments, you will find that we actually have a plan for sustainability,” Pines said. “This really becomes an issue for most people, I think, emotional and more political, than actual scientific.”

The Western Gateway proposal includes 300 housing units starting at $899 per month.

[SGA calls on UMD to address environmental concerns of Guilford Woods development]

During a Student Government Association meeting last week, Tamara Allard, president of the Graduate Student Government, said 75 percent of graduate students support the development’s construction, emphasizing the need for more affordable graduate student housing.

“The cost of living [in College Park] does not fit the graduate student budget,” Allard said during the meeting. “The fact of the matter is, nothing in this area is affordable enough. These units are just much more affordable than what is already available.”

In the eyes of Autumn Perkey, the GSG’s legislative vice president, those concerned about sustainability should consider the environmental impacts of current graduate housing, The Diamondback reported.

Pines told the senate that he’s received thousands of letters and spoke to hundreds of people about the issue.

“But what I’ve discovered is that this is simply purely emotional for many people, and not necessarily completely based on rationale and science,” he said.

[Activists say developing Guilford Woods will displace wildlife, exacerbate flooding]

On Wednesday, this university’s SGA passed a bill that called on administrators to address environmental concerns related to the proposed development.

“We’re really thinking about the value of trees to public health,” Nina Jeffries, the SGA sustainability director and senior environmental science and policy major, told the student government in a meeting last week. The bill passed during the following meeting.

Pines told the senate that there are plans for sustainability, which include planting more than one tree per tree lost.

“There’s no one more focused on the environment than me,” Pines said. “But I’m also committed to our graduate students, and you have to understand that they have been struggling for years to get affordable housing near our campus.”