The communication department is feeling the sting of serious budget problems. High construction costs and a lack of funding forced those planning the construction of a renovated Campus Center to kill plans for a new TV studio, radio station and Spartan office. It also means the communication department will not be moving from Leavanworth Hall as planned.
“We had a construction firm come in and do an initial estimate on the campus center,” said Bill Allen, the college’s dean of administration.
And that estimate showed that the communication additions could be included in the Campus Center. It wasn’t until later, when a second estimate was gathered, that problems arose.
“We brought in engineers for a full evaluation and it turned out that that building needs a lot more work than we originally thought. The roof, windows, insulation,” said Allen.
One of the biggest problems had to do with the location of where the TV station was to be built.
“The additions would have had to been built over existing transformers and a steam line, the cost of rerouting that steam line was just too expensive,” said Allen. “That construction costs are going up at astronomical rates and that there would need to be so much extra construction for the steam line, well those two problems really created a perfect storm against us.”
But plans for improving the communication department aren’t dead. Instead of the Campus Center, the TV studio is now being planned as an addition to Leavenworth Hall, along with some other “minor” renovations according to Allen.
There is hope for the radio station as well, he said.
“The hope still is to move the radio station to the Campus Center, but I want to make it clear that none of this is 100 percent – we’re still very deep in the budgeting and planning stages,” said Allen.
Communication Professor Roy Vestrich was glad to hear of the move to Leavenworth.
“I think there were mixed feelings (about the move to the campus center) to begin with, so this might even be a better alternative,” he said.
He was not without a sense of pessimism though, and explained that there have been plans in years past to upgrade the department.
“Look, I believed in ’89 that we’d have an addition so am I optimistic? The answer is no,” said Vestrich.
Bob Gershon, another long-time professor in the department said simply, “I’m more hopeful (that the renovations will happen) than I was last year, but not as much as I was last week,” said Gershon.
He later admitted that there is a small fear that “this plan may dwindle as well.”
But the communication professors said they understand that there is nothing the school can do about it, the money just isn’t there.
“I think Dave Wolk has been a champion of this project from the beginning, I think he sees the value in showcasing our ability,” said journalism professor Dave Blow.
“The Campus Center project was coming in at a higher cost than any of us anticipated, but I think there’s still some real good potential here,” said Vestrich.
There are positives with the changed plans, however, and Bob Gershon is quick to point them out.
“Well, even though The Spartan won’t have that natural symbiosis with WIUV -and that’s a loss – there will be that sense between the TV station and the paper. Students working for both will be able to work side by side,” said Gershon. “There will be ideas I have with colleagues and students that I don’t normally see – and that’s when things really start happening.”
Finally, it seems the integration between the TV station and The Spartan, what those in the department call convergence, will start to become fully realized.
“It’ll be cool to work next to Bob. It’ll be good for us (the paper and the station) to work together, news-wise,” said Blow.
Gershon was also prepared with ideas in case the renovations don’t take place. “Here’s an idea,” he said, “maybe after graduation they just leave the big white tent up and we just move into there.