Campus blueprint on life support

Matt Weir / The Collegian

In November of 2007, Fresno State’s Campus Master Plan was created in order to revitalize the university’s outdated facilities and revive the its struggling infrastructure.

Schematics and blueprints generated a 30-year plan for demolishing some old and obsolete buildings in order to construct newer buildings among other projects.

Cynthia Teniente-Matson, vice president for administration services, said Fresno State has amassed $105 million in deferred maintenance to this date.

A campus boulevard was drawn up as a gateway to the new and improved Fresno State, a university geared to “guide our pursuit of excellence in learning and discovery,” according to President John Welty’s statement on the Master Plan’s website.

Teniente-Matson said she sees the master plan as a roadmap to making Fresno State one of California’s universities with premier facilities.

“It connects our physical campus presence to our strategic plan and academic initiatives,” Teniente-Matson said. “This type of planning tool facilitates robust decision-making regarding facility priorities.”

A lot has changed since 2007 and financial shortcomings have turned this concrete roadmap into an uncertain wish list. Teniente-Matson, who manages funding for the construction budget, has seen those plans drift from reality.

“Ideally, the campus would have the funds to demolish facilities that are beyond their useful life or no longer suitable for contemporary use and replace them,” Teniente-Matson said. “However, at this stage it is likely that we’ll be focused on deferred maintenance and short-term capital improvements.”

This results of this have been buildings with leaks in the roofs, lights that don’t work, peeling paint and dirty bathrooms, among other things that usually aren’t associated with a university.

With the current state of the campus, postponing maintenance and extending the lives of dilapidated buildings will force students to endure an even harsher road for higher education.

Chair of the academic senate and member of the campus plan’s coordinating committee Michael Botwin said everyone realizes that the plan is now optimistic, but that it’s better than a weak plan.

Botwin showed little optimism about the immediate implementation of what is laid out in the blueprints.
“This has to happen,” Botwin said. “Things are falling apart.”

According to Teniente-Matson, carrying out the master plan has not been a complete failure thus far. Some projects have been completed, such as the Henry Madden Library and Peace Garden. The aquatics facility and University High School are currently underway.

“Various projects are in the planning stages, such as roadway improvements, utility infrastructure upgrades, an agricultural research building and parking structure,” Teniente-Matson.

Teniente-Matson said the fiscal crisis has caused a decline in funds available for construction projects.

“In addition, the furloughs impacted the amount of time available for staff in facilities planning to accomplish tasks,” Teniente-Matson said.

Government officials in Sacramento could help the dire situation at Fresno State, Teniente-Matson said, with the campus struggling to maintain daily operations.

“This is a serious problem [deferred maintenance], not only at Fresno State and within the CSU, but for public higher education in general,” Matson said. “The solution requires the state legislature to make higher education a priority in California.”

The money that is used to make improvements on campus can come from various resources besides state funds. Matson said campus improvements are funded separately from operating budgets, and most of it comes from the California State University (CSU) systems’ budget allocation, voter approved-ballot measures, grants, gifts or self-supporting funds.

Private gifts to the university are becoming ever more vital with state funds diminishing.

Table Mountain Casino donated $10 million to the Henry Madden Library. In return, a portion of the library was named after the casino. However, private donations for areas of infrastructure are few and far between.

Director of auxiliary services, Debbie Adishian-Astone, said she is uncertain about the future the master plan provided for her department due to dire economic times. Auxiliary services run the Save Mart Center, the food court, bookstore and the dorms.

“With enrollment decline, for auxiliary services we are being impacted from lower resident population, campus dining, and Kennel Bookstore,” Adishian-Astone said. “Our reduced revenues would not be able to support financing of new facilities for auxiliary enterprises.”

Adishian-Astone said that these budget crises occur in cycles and Fresno State will return to prominence in the future.

“We still have to plan for the future and be in a position to accept enrollment growth when budget levels are again stable,” Adishian-Astone said.

Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Robert Boyd is faced with the task of up keeping the campus and buildings with a slashed budget.

With a pile of maintenance left undone the mission of the administration may not be constructing modern buildings and luxuries.

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