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February 13, 2013

CSU to get $14.6 million for academic space

By Jordan Gonzalez

@jordanrgonzo

Cleveland State University has seen its fair share of construction in the last few months, and often it seems to be a perpetual affair.

Don’t expect it to end anytime soon.

Cleveland State seems to be on track to receive $14.6 million in state funding from Columbus via the Capitol Appropriation Bill to update and remodel parts of the Main Classroom as well as labs in the Science Building, Science Research Building and Fenn Hall (Washkewicz College of Engineering).

The bill is expected to be passed sometime in April, according to Tim Long, associate vice president for Finance and Technology at Cleveland State. If the bill passes, Cleveland State will be allowed to use the funds after 90 days.

“Once we went through the first round of requests and presented our requests and they evaluated it, it would seem – even though there is no legislation passed yet – the word out of Columbus is that [Cleveland State is] probably on track to get $14.6 million in these categories,” Long said.

The Main Classroom will receive $4 million for the “renovation and upgrade of 20 classrooms and supporting facilities” according to the official Cleveland State budget request.

$10 million will be given to new “Engaged Learning Laboratories” that will renovate labs. Another $1.6 million will be used to create new labs.

Requests from state schools for the capital appropriations bill must be academic-related, and despite the requirement’s mandatory nature, it fits in with a greater vision Cleveland State administrative officials have in regards to academic space concerns.

“One of the reasons why we’ve put a lot of emphasis in our last request to Ohio for money to upgrade the Main Classroom and some of our labs is that some students were coming in from high schools that were more technologically up-to-date,” said Provost Deidre Mageean. “The classes weren’t up to the standards we want to have.”

While President Ronald Berkman has final say over the request sent to Columbus (which was presented at a meeting of Ohio state college presidents), Mageean said it was a “university decision” that included the office of Finance and Administration, and college deans.

In the past, the Faculty Senate’s committee on academic space has complained about their concerns being ignored in regards to classroom renovations. Often reports and recommendations were brought up in faculty senate meetings but were not addressed, said Teresa LaGrange, vice provost for academic planning at Cleveland State.

Last semester, (fall 2013) Mageean was made aware of these concerns and formed the University Space Committee to address these issues.

“I’m new [as of] July 1, so I wasn’t even aware when I came that there was such committee [on academic space in the faculty senate],” said Mageean.

She said she’s created a committee that involves members that play a part in improving academic space, including faculty members, the registrar’s office, the office of academic planning and members from the faculty senate’s committee on academic space.

“So in some ways we’re giving [the members from the Faculty Senate’s committee on academic space] a voice and access to the decision making process they didn’t have before,” Mageean said. “A direct line.”

The committee is still in its early stages, but Mageean said they’re in the process of writing a set of policies, which will later go through official authorization and then to the board of trustees.

Cleveland State has grown a lot recently, and LaGrange said much of the recent attention given to academic space is a result of that growth and the inevitable changes that follow.

“One of the things that’s happened over the last few years though is that our student population has grown significantly, and at the same time research and partnership activities have also grown, and we have this sort of same limitation of space,” LaGrange said. “Because of those two factors, it’s become necessary for people to be scheduling classes in spaces that weren’t being used that way.”

For Mageean and LaGrange, they’d like to also show the deeper purpose of University Space Committee – one that reminds everyone that offices, labs and research facilities are included in the umbrella of academic space.

Furthermore, sometimes there are decisions out of their control, such as damages and routine maintenance that slow down the progress of remodeling and modernizing.

Other times higher authorities and finances limit a school’s ability to remodel. Long and Mageean noted that in recent years there have been huge cuts from the state, something which Gov. John Kasich has changed recently (in fiscal year 11-12, there was no capital appropriation bill).

“It’s a never ending process,” Mageean said. “It’s like running a small city.”