The Construction of the Annex is in Full Swing, CIS Greenhouse Expected to Open Shortly
As returning students settle back to campus for the new academic year, many will notice the recent updates to the Center for Integrated Sciences (CIS) along with the clearing of the sight for the Annex, previously known as the swing space.
The construction was in full swing during the summer, and the first phase of the north wing is officially completed. Patricia Fehling, Acting Associate Dean of the Faculty, Professor for Health and Human physiological sciences Department and faculty liaison for the project, has commented that the greenhouse will open around the middle of September after certifications are issued for interested faculty.
Donna Ng, Vice President for Finance and Administration, said that there have been visible signs of progress in the construction of the building, and she is hoping to facilitate a tour to members of the community, to visit the building in the month of October.
The Annex sight, which is located on the outskirts of campus near Northwoods, has already been cleared of its trees for construction. The demolished trees will be donated to a local furniture company which specializes in developing furniture for families of a low economic background, according to Fehling. Regarding the Annex, which sparked concerns from the student body last semester, Ng said that she hopes it will be completed in spring of 2020, while the rest of the CIS is expected to be officially completed fall of 2024.
“The cost of not doing [the CIS] is an important aspect, if we do not have a competitive science facility where will we be?” she says. “If you look at our peer schools, they have updated their science facilities,” she pointed out that Old Dana, originally designed to house Skidmore’s nursing major, is “more than 50 years old, this is the right time because of the age of the buildings.”
However, as plans for the Annex move forward, it’s clear that the tensions, which arose last semester regarding the project’s lack of sustainable features, are not yet completely resolved.
After the first proposed plan for the Annex sparked protest from various students and a number of faculty, President Glotzbach stated that the building will be two stories instead of one, increasing its cost but reducing its footprint.
However, at the heart of the controversy of last year, remained an on-going question regarding how to achieve sustainable development at Skidmore.
Kate Bjorklund '20, former Sustainability Commission (SuCo) Co-Chair and Campus Sustainability Subcommittee student representative, mentioned that the lack of communication regarding the planning of the Annex space was and remains an issue. Zoe Pagliaro ‘20 former SuCo Co-Chair and Campus Sustainability Subcommittee student representative states, "We are not upset about a few trees being taken down — even though it was valuable land — as they had every right to do it. However, sustainability is listed as one of Skidmore's core values, yet that is not always evident in the decisions that the college makes."
"If we are going to grow, we have to do so responsibly,” adds Bjorklund. She continued, "Sustainability should be considered as much of a priority as cost and time."
Ensuring that the construction cost of the Annex does not dramatically increase is integral to the project. However, sentiments concerning improvement in communication between students, faculty, and administration remain a campus wide issue. Both Pagliaro and Bjorklund suggest that the whole process, from start to finish, include more student input and feedback.
The Annex’s sustainability — or lack thereof — is not the only discussion on campus regarding construction projects. As the largest academic project in the College’s history, the total cost of the CIS is a hefty 127 million. 49.5 out of 50 million has been fundraised to cover the first stage of the construction. The college has also recently taken a loan of 35 million for the project in 2018, and most of the remaining cost will be the college’s investment returns (currently at 42 million) and budget surpluses.
Although not directly related to the CIS, the 2020 fiscal year plan will also include a few budget cuts to accommodate the increased need for financial aid. Beth Ann Post, Director of Financial Aid, confirmed that there have been more financial aid recipients than usual for this class year.
“We asked our department manager to take a look at their expense and be creative off their spending,” says Ng. “The College needs to be smart about operational costs like food, but it will not affect the quality and the dining hall,” she continued. This year’s plan target was to reduce ten percent of operational cost on supplies and services, but the targeted reductions arrived at six percent.
Ng also mentions that she wants students to be more aware of the financial challenges of higher education and to engage with her regarding any of their concerns: “We want to have an open dialogue, I’m very open to student questions, and it’s important to have student voices heard.”
Stay tuned for more updates on the construction of CIS in a follow up article next week.