Last fall, President Fred G. Slabach announced several changes to the Texas Wesleyan campus. Some of the improvements are still in progress, some have been delayed, and some are taking longer than expected.
The highlights of the campus improvements were the Rosedale renaissance: the Clock Tower, United Methodist Church Central Texas Conference Service Center, renovation of the Polytechnic Firehouse, which will house the Art Program. Originally, these projects were projected to be finished by the end of 2014.
Also on the agenda, though not a part of the Renaissance, is a renovation to Dora’s Cafe.
The total projected costs with these improvements are $8.4 million.
With so much money being put into the school, several students have expressed concerns with the priorities of the administration.
People around the campus might notice new flowers, an iron fence and a few new bathroom dispensaries. They would also notice the hole in Dora’s that used to be the floor, no clock tower where a clock tower should be, and a parking situation that has yet to meet the needs of student and faculty parking.
“I think they [campus beautification improvements] are necessary and will benefit us in the long run, but I’d rather see parking taken care of before flowers,” senior English major Dalyn Ikens said. “I think that our money could be going other places than where it is right now.”
Even though she questions the project, Ikens does consider the renovations necessary.
“I do think we need to update our campus because we have been behind, for a while, compared to other universities in our area,” she said. “And the neighborhood that our campus is in is somewhat of an eyesore, so if we make the campus look nicer maybe people want to come and spend their money here. But I don’t think a bunch of construction and flowers is going to do that. I think we need to do more than that.”
Other students offer more support for the beautification projects around campus. Several students agree with Ikens about the necessity of improving the look of the campus.
“I’m excited,” said Jeremy Hunt, resident assistant at O.C. Hall and senior Mass Communications major. “All the beautification going around campus [are going] to enhance it to make it look more like a powerful university. I would really like to see the turn out [of Dora’s] because the campaign looks amazing.”
Dora’s Café has been delayed due to structural deficiencies. Construction began at the end of the 2014 spring semester and were scheduled to be finished by the start of this semester.
“We were able to identify what caused those [structural deficiencies] and we went in,” Brian Franks, executive director of facilities and operations said. “It was a fairly invasive type of renovation, but we had to tear up the slab and replace the soil underneath the slab.”
Franks said the demolition to the structure of Dora’s was completed the first week of October. With the demo completed, construction can begin on replacing the soil underneath the slab.
Franks also said that the concrete contactors have already begun the process. “Once the structural and geotechnical engineers verify that the materials going back into the building meet their specifications then the concrete contractor is released to start installing them.”
With this unforeseen delay, Dora’s reopening has been delayed until January 2015, which is on time according to the revised schedule submitted after the deficiencies were identified.
Even though Hunt supports the overall project, he would like to see more of a focus on housing.
Stella House was built in 1967 and students say it needs serious repairs to the roof. Visual inspection revealed bowed spots in the roof. Although, Franks said the roof is structurally sound.
“The roofing system on top of that [the decking] is beyond repair,” Franks said. “It needs to be replaced. It should have been replaced…we’ll just say that it needs to be replaced.”
Franks expressed difficulties in roof maintenance due to the ongoing problems.
“It’s a tremendous effort on our maintenance to keep replacing those tiles,” he said. Because it’s failed we are not able to perform repairs to the deck. We have put together a price to replace the roof material and also to replace the ceiling material.”
The roof repair project was proposed, along with several other projects, to an executive committee for approval on Oct. 16. According to Franks, the top two projects on that list deal with elevator repairs and replacing Stella’s roof.
“Once the executive committee gives their approval we will be able to move forward the very next day.” Franks said.
Franks does not foresee the roof repairs impacting the use of the building. If approved, the repairs will likely begin during the winter months when students are out for winter break.
Students also expressed a variety of concerns with the lack of attention on maintenance issues regarding the residence halls, Stella and West Village.
“I was concerned about the mold growing in Stella, especially in the showers,” Heather O’Donnell, junior Theatre Major said. “[And] Why there hasn’t even been an attempt to replace the shower curtains or clean the area on a more regular basis.
“I’m not too fond of the fact that we are spending more money on landscaping and making a clock tower and renovating stuff that doesn’t need it when our residence halls are in poor condition, and there are simple maintenance issues that we don’t address.”
According to an email sent out by Dean of Students Dennis Hall, the university has replaced the molded shower curtains and are developing a plan and timeline for renovating all bathrooms in Stella.
Other students expressed concerns about safety and health during the Oct. 7 student forum. Many felt that their concerns were ignored or quickly glazed over.
“I ask a question about mold and asbestos abatement and these weren’t even answered or acknowledged.” said senior liberal arts major Jeff Cunningham. “I feel like we’re spending a lot of money on exterior landscapes. Basically what we are doing is putting lipstick on a pig and ignoring student safety. And it’s something we can’t afford to do.
“Has anybody ever done air duct analysis? Has anyone ever tested this mold? Is the underlining reason that Stella is not being repaired that they don’t want to get into asbestos ridden walls. I don’ think the flowers help student safety. I don’t feel like we should be spending $75,000 on flowers when we still have questionable issues to answer about student safety.”
Franks said that student safety, specifically as it pertains to asbestos, is a priority.
“The building was built during the time period that asbestos materials were being used,” Franks said. “We make sure that we follow all state requirements of the testing, handling and removal of those materials. There are no friable materials in [Stella] that any of the building occupants can come into contact with.”
Other students are not on board with the improvement projects. Some agree that basic maintenance issues are not resolved quick enough.
“As an RA in Stella I find the whole situation strange.” said junior mass communications major Victoria Johnson. “You know that there is mold growing, you know that the water is burning students, there are so many things wrong with the building. But instead you choose to put the money toward something else.”
Johnson also expressed concerns with how the university money is spent.
“If we are going to talk about where we are going as a university, I want to know where exactly my money is going,” she said. “They would rather spend money on a new clock tower and flowers then actually updating and making sure the dorms are livable.”
Johnson’s problems include a maintenance request system that, in her opinion, does not work properly.
“We would fill out requests and they would not get fixed,” Johnson said. “Maintenance claimed that they didn’t get any orders from RAs.”
Franks agrees that the request system needs improvement.
“The RAs are trained on how to enter the work orders properly,” Franks said. “We’ve asked that the students contact the RA. And the RA submit the work order into facilities. We also follow up with the RA to check on the customer relation aspect.
“The point of contact for the student should be the RA. We’re working in collaboration with IT to improve our work order system and how we manage that. It’s not perfect right now, but it’s miles beyond what it was a year ago.”
For now, concerned students will have to wait.