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Archive Notes - November 2010


Recently, architects from the firm of Burt, Hill unveiled a new
facilities master plan for our campus. This master plan will serve as a
guide for us as we look to both build new buildings and renovate our
existing ones. Since the Master plan was presented to the campus, there
has been a great deal of uncertainty about what the implications of it
are on our existing programs. In order to best answer this, it is
illustrative to take a short look at the process used to develop the
master plan.

The facilities master planning process was funded
and directed by the SUNY Construction Fund. The Construction Fund, as
it prepares for a new 5-year plan to submit to the Legislature for
funding, wants to have an accurate picture of two things. First of all,
it wished to know as precisely as possible, the level of deferred
critical maintenance on each campus. Second, it wished to know what new
construction projects might be presented by campuses over the next
fifteen years. In order to answer these questions, a facilities master
planning process was initiated within SUNY. We are one of the first
campuses to be studied. It is important to remember that the funds
which the campus receives for critical maintenance and new construction
are completely separate from our operating budget and may only be spent
on critical maintenance and construction, and the expenditure is
supervised by the Construction Fund.

The Construction Fund
provided the architects with a template for the campus study. This
included the creation of a steering committee, which consisted of
representatives from every division of the College, and an executive
committee, which on this campus was the Administrative Cabinet, and now
the President?s Council. The process also called for broad consultation
and data collection. Early in the process, the fall of 2009, scores of
focus groups, consisting of faculty, staff, students, and community
members were interviewed using a template developed by the architects
and the Construction Fund. There were also surveys sent out to provide
additional information. The architects worked with the steering and
executive committees in developing the key parameters of the study. For
our campus, we wanted to know if we could accommodate 5,000 students
using our current inventory of buildings. We wanted to know if there was
sufficient space on campus to also provide for swing or surge space
when we would renovate buildings such as Satterlee or Dunn Hall. Swing
or surge spaces are spaces where programs and departments can be
relocated while a construction project is underway. We wanted to know
about the quality of our facilities, as well as the quantity. Lastly,
we hoped for guidance about possible future development of our exterior
spaces, Lehman Park, and NATCO Park (located to the east of the Crane
complex across outer Main Street). Obviously we are sensitive to the
environmental impact of our physical plant, we need to be concerned
about whether or not any of this can be funded, and we want the entire
master plan to be consonant with the goals and aspirations of the
campus.

The facilities master plan provides answers to these
questions, and suggestions about how the campus might develop over the
next fifteen years. It does not require us to pursue any of these
projects. It is suggestive not proscriptive. As we move forward, we will
need to evaluate programmatically each proposal if and when it becomes
feasible. It is easiest to describe this process in terms of a concrete
example. Many years ago, the administration and faculty leaders decided
that we needed either to totally renovate the University Theater and
associated spaces, or build a new performing arts building. When I
arrived on campus, we created a program study in which the stakeholders,
faculty from Theatre and Dance, other faculty members, students, and
administrators worked with an architect to create a feasibility study.
When that was concluded we knew essentially what programmatic components
might be housed in such a building and approximately how much it might
cost to build. Armed with this, we were then able to negotiate with the
Construction Fund and the State Legislature to get the project funded
through the capital initiative program. Again, we need to be mindful
that construction funds can only be used for construction and not
diverted to our operating budget. Once we had the funds, we created a
new steering committee made up of stakeholders in the new building, to
actually work with architects to design the building. The steering
committee consisted of many faculty members from Theatre and Dance, was
co-chaired by a member of that department. The final users of the
building were queried extensively during the design process. Similarly,
we have just concluded a program study regarding the renovation or
replacement of the Barrington Student Union. That project is our highest
priority.

The facilities master plan does not relieve us of the
need to continue to conduct program studies before we propose a major
renovation or new construction. As a result, the projects suggested by
the master plan will still need to be evaluated in terms of the
programmatic needs of the campus, by the faculty and staff of the
relevant departments and programs. We can accept or reject any of the
proposals in the master plan.

In conclusion, I want to thank all
of the many members of campus community who contributed to this
important first step in envisioning the campus of the future. It has
reinforced our commitment to providing our students with a superior
learning environment. The facilities master plan gives us guidance as to
broad areas of critical need, provides important information related to
potential growth, swing space and overall capacities, and it suggests a
general approach that seeks to align campus priorities with practical
realities, environmental considerations, and the needs of those who live
and work within the campus.Within its general framework, we will have
ample opportunity to explore extensively with all stakeholders the
particular implications of any future initiative on which, as funding
becomes available, we are able to move forward. I am pleased by the
interest which the master plan has generated among so many members of
our campus family and look forward to working with all of you as we
continue to create the SUNY Potsdam for the next 200 years.