Creature comforts eclipse academics in IUP construction plans

The new $30 million IUP College of Humanities and Social Sciences building, left. Photo courtesy of a Dec. 14, 2015, blog post by IUP President Michael A. Driscoll.

The new $30 million IUP College of Humanities and Social Sciences building. Photo courtesy of a Dec. 14, 2015, blog post by IUP President Michael A. Driscoll.

By Logan Hullinger

INDIANA -– A lot of ribbon has been scissored at new buildings at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in recent years. But IUP President Michael A. Driscoll’s Jan. 22 ribbon-cutting ceremony at a new $30 million home for the institution’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences marked the first time an academic structure has opened on the campus in two decades.

The last new classroom building to open was the Eberly College of Business in 1996. The last one before that was erected in 1980, according to an inventory provided by the university’s media relations office.

Next up is a new home for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics, according to the university. But the academic building has been put off repeatedly over the years.

Meanwhile, during the past decade, much of IUP’s brick-and-mortar effort has been poured into housing, dining and recreational facilities to make the university more appealing to prospective undergraduates.

Between 2006 and 2010, a $270 million Residential Revival project, financed through the non-profit Foundation for IUP, razed 11 aging dormitories and replaced them with eight “suite-style” facilities. Former President Tony Atwater described the effort as the largest of its kind in the country. (The university reported in 2010 that the project came in under budget, at $245 million.)

“Having student residential housing that’s contemporary, suite-style housing, that’s what college students of today are looking for,” Atwater said in 2008. “There’s no doubt about it.”

New dining halls include the Crimson Cafe, which opened in 2014, in the first phase in a $37 million Master Dining Plan. In fall 2015, IUP spent $12.1 million on renovation of Folger Dining Hall.

IUP plans to demolish Foster Dining Hall in 2017, according to the Campus Facilities Master Plan. The North Dining Commons, estimated to cost $18 million, is due for completion by 2017, the end of the dining-renewal project.

The Student Cooperative Association, funded by student activity fees, paid $8 million for its share of a residential-recreational facility adjacent to the campus on South Seventh Street.

 
____________________

‘There will be construction on campus until we’re dead.’

— IUP President Michael A. Driscoll, Jan. 26, 2016

_____________________
 

Despite the residential, recreational and dining upgrades, enrollments have declined.

In fall 2012, IUP boasted a fourth annual record enrollment of 15,379. By fall 2015, total enrollment fell to 13,775 students — a 10.4 percent decline — according to university spokeswoman Michelle Fryling.

Nevertheless, the university plans to keep up a brisk pace of non-academic construction.

“There will be construction on campus until we’re dead,” IUP President Michael A. Driscoll joked in response to a question at an open forum in Gorell Recital Hall on Tuesday. “The dining facility is the next big thing in terms of construction of campus.”

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll, open forum, Gorell Recital Hall, Jan. 26, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

IUP President Michael A. Driscoll, open forum, Gorell Recital Hall, Jan. 26, 2016. Photo by Logan Hullinger.

In 2011, a new $79 million building for the university’s College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics was slated for completion at the same time as the new humanities building that opened last week. But the university revised that plan in 2014 and pushed back the math-and-science building another three to five years. No date is set for a ribbon-cutting.

“It’s just a plan,” Driscoll said on Tuesday. “It’s a matter of what funding is available at what time. There’s a lot of planning going on. But reality is what reality is.”

Realities include state funding for higher education, he said, a budget issue in sharp dispute between the legislature and Gov. Tom Wolf.

“It depends on commonwealth funding,” Driscoll said. “The commonwealth paid for the humanities and social sciences building. Earlier it was hopeful that we’d see a larger chunk of funds. We, in theory, will be getting some appropriation this fiscal year or next fiscal year, which would go towards the new mathematics and science building.”

In Weyandt Hall, the vintage-1967 home to IUP’s natural science and math programs, Chemistry Department chair George R. Long said he was hopeful.

“I am fairly confident that the building will be on schedule,” Long said in a Friday email. “With state institutions there is always a chance that politics or the state economy may change unexpectedly and regulations for state construction can be complicated, but fundraising and planning for the building seems to be going well.”

In 2014, the university received a $1.25 million donation for the new facility from IUP alumni Tim and Debra Cejka.

Logan Hullinger, a sophomore journalism major at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from Clarion, is a staff reporter for The HawkEye. He can be contacted at L.R.Hullinger@iup.edu.

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