Master plan forum survey results released in meeting

By Jenna Gaudino

Griffin Reporter

Over winter break, a master plan survey was released by Marco F. Benedetti, vice president of business and finance, which asked faculty members and students to weigh in on expectations regarding the growth and development of Canisius. In hopes to develop future strategies towards the growth and transformation of the campus, single issues were considered in isolation.

Speakers Benedetti, Tom Ciminelli, director of facilities, Jonathan DiCicco Ph.D, and Terri Mangione, vice president of student affairs were pleased with the participation in the survey, which had approximately 900 respondents and a good representation of both students and faculty members. A meeting held Tuesday afternoon discussed the results. The majority of the meeting considered processes, themes and results. Benedetti described the survey as a road-map, considering “where to go from here.”

The survey was the first step in creating a plan that will be presented to the Board of Trustees in May. Speakers emphasized their goal of creating a dialogue among administration, faculty and students in order to improve the college.

At the beginning of the meeting, Canisius’ buildings and their structural issues were discussed. Concerns about the age and materials of a few buildings as well as the issue of leaky roofs were mentioned. Topics regarding exterior issues such as general wear-and-tear, heating, air-conditioning, plumbing and infrastructure were also addressed. The majority of the people who participated in this portion of the survey expressed a few items to keep in mind. Among those items were sustainability and functionality.

Benedetti then talked about the next steps: how Canisius will handle costs, fundraisers and the question of the timeline. A major dilemma Benedetti talked about was the unfinished condition of Science Hall.

While the majority agreed that the space is aesthetically pleasing and the building is beautifully designed, the $70 million project is still not finished. “The number one major theme was really the science facilities,” Benedetti said. “The fact that Science Hall was not done, the fact that Horan O’Donnell and Health Science are considered to be in a sub-optimal location is a theme that was mentioned over and over. In the terms of whether it should renovated, repurposed or actually completing science hall and moving those department was a significant amount of the input. It actually came up 25 percent of the time.”

Benedetti stressed that the project’s timeline was driven by funds. Since the beginning, the building did not have enough money for all phases. In addition to its incompletion, the building is considerably under-utilized. DiCicco joked that the only time the majority of people go to Science Hall is to grab Starbucks – speaking to its lack of utilization. The location of Science Hall was also another dissatisfaction.

One of the disputes that was mentioned during this time was the question of priorities. Benedetti thought that, depending on one’s point of view, bigger and smaller projects could be of equal value. Although Science Hall is not finished, other aesthetic improvements have been made, such as the entrance to the library. Over break, the library’s blinds and some of the carpeting had been replaced while the entrance had been repainted. New furniture is on the way. The cost for the small improvements in the library totaled $50,000.

Improvements towards the library coincide with complaints on the lack of community and recreational space. Students and faculty members said that the facilities previously established for collaboration and enjoyment are inadequate. The only space that is largely utilized by a great number of students and faculty members is the library. Benedetti reinforced, “Student space came up across different constituencies and the fact that the library is being used as a student space. People love the library, but they also feel that it’s a library. You should have seperate student space.”

The survey stated that places like Palisano and Montante were merely, or less than, satisfactory. A student at the meeting raised a question about the closing of the Street-Side Cafe. Benedetti’s answer was that it simply did not generate enough money. Talk of the area becoming a gym was brief because opening the space up is nearly impossible.

The results of the survey showed that the two biggest areas of dissatisfaction stems from the dining facility and parking. Participants did not like the new hours of operation or the dining facility in general. It has been 20 years since its last renovation. Benedetti addressed concerns on the parking ramp’s age and its distance from campus. He ensured the safety of the parking ramp but is looking to replace it with a surface lot within the next five years. The majority of the themes discussed at the meeting were write-ins towards the end of the survey.

At the conclusion of the meeting, there were questions regarding where funding comes from. Benedetti said that a large portion came from private donors but some did come from the state. The state even put $7 million into Science Hall. Grant money also helps but it usually goes directly into the programs. The meeting ended with remarks on student and faculty input. Although a rough plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees in May – a relatively tight deadline, input is encouraged and plans are flexible.  

 

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