In our era of global tensions, a popular theme of science fiction is that of The Pulse — a scenario in which a terrorist group or foreign power detonates a nuclear device at altitute causing a powerful Electro-Magnetic Pulse to destroy the electronic devices on which our infrastructure depends. In other scenarios, an unusually intense Solar Flare might yield the same cataclysm. Or perhaps a Pandemic might devastate the population at large.
These troubling possibilities raise some interesting questions.
1) Can a campus have its infrastructure shielded to survive an EMP disaster?
2) Can it generate it own power if the Electrical Grid is somehow taken offline?
3) Can it produce enough food on site to feed its community if national and regional food distribution networks are temporarily disrubted?
4) Can it meet its immediate medical needs if cut off from external support?
5) Can it defend its campus from roving hoards in a Mad Max or Zombie Apocalypse scenario?
6) How long could it recycle its supplies?
7) Could it refine raw materials if needed?
8) Does its community embody the requisite skills and knowledge needed to re-boot Civilization to our current tech level in the wake of widespread institutional collapse?
9) If called upon, could the University function as Asimov’s First Foundation or DuPrau City of Ember?
10) How well would todays most iconic institutions fair if real disaster struck?
11) Where could a campus be sited to maximize its survivability?
12) What course offerings would really matter most ?
Even assuming that “Continuity of Government” plans would insure the survival of our elected leaders and key government administrators, it is highly unlikely that they would have the skills and knowledge to rebuild. Moreover, there is a vast gap between the relatively widespread knowledge of how to operate our infrastructure and the knowledge of how to re-create it should things stop working.
The University isn’t just a fun way to kill 4 to 6 years, ultimately, it is the last bastion of civiliation best positioned to stave off the long night of a new “Dark Ages” should the unthinkable happen.