Academic updates still in the works

The Fine Arts building is expected to receive several updates this summer, including upgrades to the building’s climate control.
The Fine Arts building is expected to receive several updates this summer, including upgrades to the building’s climate control.

by Jess Hoogendoorn

Fine and Performing Arts students will have a longer wait than they may have anticipated before they have a new theater to call their own. However, they can look forward to some updates to the Fine Arts building in the meantime.

The groundbreaking for the new Fine and Performing Arts building that is planned to be constructed next to Memorial Hall has been pushed back. The project’s start date was originally announced to be 2011, according to Dr. Patrick Chmel in the Dec. 7, 2007, issue of The Rider News. However, a more recent target of 2012 for the groundbreaking no longer appears feasible, according to Jonathan Meer, vice president of University Advancement.

An academic building scheduled to be built on the Westminster campus has also been delayed. The cost of the two projects combined is approximately $24 million — $7 million for the Westminster building and $17 million for the Lawrenceville building, according to Meer.

The construction of both projects has been delayed because of a lack of funds, a direct result of the hurting economy.

“To date, we’ve secured more than $14 million in gifts and pledges towards these two priorities, and we have numerous seven-figure solicitations in progress,” Meer wrote in an e-mail.

However, many students and faculty are hoping the Lawrenceville building will get under way as soon as possible because it will provide a new theater and additional classroom space.

“This is a building that is desperately needed for the theater space and the rehearsal-room space, if nothing else, because we have new majors over here that need to have a place to perform,” said Dr. Jerry Rife, chair of the Fine Arts Department, in a phone message.

Meer explained that unlike many colleges and universities that have suspended work on major capital projects, “Rider is moving forward with the planning and funding of these top initiatives.”

Meanwhile some upgrades  to the existing Fine Arts building will occur this summer, according to Meer.

A homework/computer lab for the Department of Communication and Journalism is proposed to be built to support the new graphic design program. The current journalism computer labs will be used strictly for teaching, according to Meer. The cost of the entire project is still being negotiated.

Dr. Jonathan Millen, chair of the Department of Communication and Journalism and the assistant dean of the College of Liberal Arts, Education and Sciences, said if the new lab is built, one of the possible locations will be Fine Arts 113. This room is currently a non-Mac computer lab.

However, Millen explained that lab space at another location must be located to replace the space that will be taken away by the homework lab. Therefore, the possible expansion of the existing library computer lab may offer the solution.

“We are building a general computer lab in the library, which will expand the existing lab capacity by an additional 25 computers,” Meer wrote in an e-mail.

The proposed new homework lab in Fine Arts is intended to give students a place to do homework anytime, rather than only certain blocks of times in the journalism labs when they can come in to work on projects.

The creation of the graphic design track has put added demands  on the Communication and Journalism Department resources, said Millen. Therefore, the department has worked with the university to increase student resources.

The original plan called for a third journalism lab, but a third lab would take up two classrooms’ worth of space, whereas a homework lab could replace an existing computer lab, according to Millen.

The university is also considering adding computer kiosks and a printing station in Fine Arts.

Other updates to the Fine Arts building will include repairs to the external structure for both safety and aesthetic purposes, upgrades to heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and enhancement of two practice rooms, according to Meer. There may also be new paint and carpeting put in.

For future improvements, Millen suggests putting in some form of lounge space for students.

“I’m a big advocate for creating lounge-type areas in the building where students can read and meet,” he said.

Millen explained that the other academic buildings have more places for students to sit and study than the Fine Arts building. He would like to see a little more “student-centered space.”

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