The Pros and Cons of a Historic Campus

Students in Chemistry Lab

Historic photo of students on campusThe limestone buildings. The original woodwork. The towering trees. Southeast’s campus itself has long been one of its greatest assets. The beauty is undeniable.The history looms in buildings that are more than 100 years old. Two people who take a very different view of Southeast’s historic campus are Angela Meyer and Floyd Davenport. For Meyer, director of Facilities Management, beauty is important but so is functionality. Right now, she says, functionality can present a daily challenge.

AGING INFRASTRUCTURE
The University has a network of tunnels that run beneath the campus, providing plenty of urban legends for students, as well as their given purpose to serve as utility and maintenance facilities. Tunnel repair and maintenance was just one project outlined in a recently completed master plan to identify needed facilities projects. The plan made numerous recommendations for repairs, renovations, and demolitions, all of which come with high price tags.

Currently five campus buildings are vacant. The International House was closed after the International Village opened in 2019. Dearmont and Henderson halls are also closed. The Art Building, built in 1902, suffered major leaks this summer that meant moving faculty and classes from the facility. Cheney Hall, built in 1939, was closed in 2016 due to structural issues. Despite those needs, Southeast has completed renovations to several facilities with more than $100 million invested in the last decade.

“In the last 10 years, we have managed over $200 million in construction projects, including renovations to Academic Hall, Memorial Hall, Magill Hall, the Boiler Plant, Grauel Hall, and Crisp Hall along with various smaller projects. These projects have allowed us to build better laboratory, classroom, and collaborative space for our students. We’ve also realized significant utility savings through these renovations. These projects have been significant, but we are nowhere near being done,” says Meyer.

Part of a historic campus is to problem solve and renovate for things that couldn’t have been imagined when some of our buildings were constructed, including ADA accessibility and technology. Southeast has a storied campus and a lot of tradition. The University faces a constant balance to do what it can to keep our history and provide educational opportunities for 21st century learning.

UPDATING TECHNOLOGY
For Davenport, associate vice president for Information Technology, computing and connectivity have become as important as running water.
“Technology is a must regardless the age of the building,” he said. “We expect access to applications and online services wherever we are. For students, these services are critical to their academic success.

“Southeast is nearing completion of a campus network upgrade that began in August 2017 and cost more than $3 million dollars. The upgrade involved every aspect of the campus network to include the campus core router, building switches, replaced fiber and network cabling, and the installation of over 1,500 wireless access points. The result is increased coverage across campus, greater capacity in classrooms, and higher speeds to meet the demands in an increasingly mobile world.

IMPROVING HOUCK FIELD
In addition to classroom buildings and residence halls, Southeast has another structure that’s history is impacting its current usefulness. Houck Field turned 90 years old this year, the oldest stadium in the Ohio Valley Conference. Athletic Director Brady Barke says upgrades for the facility are more of a necessity than a desire. The stadium was certainly built before today’s accessibility standards, and 90 years of aging is bound to take its toll. Barke says it is also a factor in recruitment.

“We want to recruit the best student-athletes,” he said. “When they weigh options between schools, the facilities offered make a difference.”
Athletics has contacted an architecture firm to do an analysis of the structure to determine the needs, consider what’s possible, and make recommendations.

But Barke says that’s just the beginning.

“We are going to have to look at ways we can generate revenue within this facility and what type of private support we can get. We’re going to have to get support from outside the institution.”

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