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Forum hears debate on plans

By Roger Sauerhaft
On April 18, 2008

  • The location of the new Bicentennial Student Center will be at the site of Culler, Gaskill and Rowan halls. The estimated cost of the project is $76 million.

On Tuesday afternoon, students got a first glance at everything the proposed $76 million Bicentennial Student Center may offer.

The location of the new student center will be on the current site of Culler, Gaskill and Rowan halls, with groundbreaking expected to occur as part of the 2009 Bicentennial. The committee said location was chosen because it serves as the epicenter on campus for pedestrian activity, driving, academic buildings, residential buildings and athletics.

Dean of Students Susan Mosley-Howard projected that the building will be open by 2013.

The committee members said the new student center would be able to contribute to the Miami experience in ways that the Shriver Center cannot.

"Not all the students feel like Shriver is really their building; it really isn't-you just come here when you have stuff to do," said junior presenter Susana Campos. "Getting a new student center would give Miami an identity so you (the student) would have a place to go in between classes and have things to do."

Fellow presenter, sophomore student trustee Kerry McCormack agreed and said the libraries and dining halls on campus can become congested because there is no large, central place for students to go.

According to McCormack and Campos, the new student center would be equipped with amenities such as recreation, gaming, lounge and retail space, new technology and an expansive food court.

Mosley-Howard said commuter students were also included in plans for the space. Although she said there might not be a commuter center in the new building, there will be space allotted to accommodate commuters.

Mosley-Howard said that the new center should be an environment for everyone rather than separating the student body.

One issue addressed was where the current inhabitants of Gaskill and Culler Hall will be moving, since these two buildings host programs that play major roles at Miami, including the department of physics.

"(The) physics (department in Culler) was actually in line to be renovated," Campos said. ìIt will be relocated to Kreger, and Laws (Hall) will also open up from the new business school (moving to their new building in 2009)."

University Projects Director of Development Susie Sadler estimated the cost of the building to be approximately $80 million.

Sadler said most of the funding will be through alumni donations, money that will be part of the $500 million President David Hodge is looking to raise through the Love and Honor campaign.

"The target is $80 million (but) we really wanted to wait until the building was definitely approved by the Board of Trustees before we go out there," Sadler said. "Thereís a lot of preliminary work to be done in the background but weíll get out there as soon as itís approved."

Sophomore Richard Schloss, a transfer student from Ohio University (OU), said that the Shriver Center is sorely lacking in terms of serving the students and that based on his experience at OU, an actual student center would be great for Miami.

"As soon as the student center opened at OU, everyone was going there to do their work and have meetings," Schloss said. ìIt got used so much that after about a month and a half of being open the waiting list to use it was so huge that they (administrators) had to start talking about expanding ... You met people that you wouldnít meet otherwise there, itís a good breeding ground for creativity too."

Conversely, junior Patrick Frank voiced two concerns with the project, saying he saw potential problems staying within the budget.

"(Students for Staff) is right: we need to give fair wages to our employees as a matter of social justice," Frank said via e-mail. "Once that is done, then we can talk about $80 million for a building we barely need."

Frank also said that the new student center must be built to be environmentally sustainable so as not to hurt the environment while also cutting future costs.

"With those two conditions satisfied, and maybe bearing in mind that tuition is rocketing out of control, then we could consider spending 80 million on something like a student center," Frank said.

The committee noted that the Shriver Center will not undergo any changes as part of this process. The committee envisioned the center becoming even more of an alumni and visitor center. Plans are currently in place to expand the bookstore.

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