Campus Master Plan

Despite renovation efforts, areas of Syracuse University still need repairs

Students who spend a lot of time in Newhouse III may have a very different experience from those who take most of their classes in Huntington Hall.

Huntington Hall had “single pane windows that rattled in the wind and lost a lot of heat,” said Bruce Carter, associate professor of psychology and child and family studies, who taught in one of the classrooms. The condition of the windows made Carter worry about pigeons flying into the room when it was warmer outside, since there were no screens. He eventually bought and installed screens himself.

“As buildings are renovated, these are costs that really should be undertaken as the renovation happens,” Carter said. “They’re really university-wide costs, kind of catching everybody up to the same level.”

The condition of buildings across campus varies widely. Syracuse University has increased the amount of money it spends on buildings in recent years but is still largely reliant on private donations to fund construction. Going forward, the Campus Master Plan, which is currently being developed, will play a major role in determining what SU will look like in the years ahead.

A campus in need of repair

When Deborah Pellow, a professor of anthropology, ran into Chancellor Kent Syverud last August, she said they spoke about all of the renovations being made on campus.

“There was not an alleyway that was not being worked on,” Pellow said.

But the renovations had to be done, Syverud told her, because they were all repairs that had been neglected on campus for the last nine or 10 years.

“For example, there’s a stairway behind the engineering building that was completely broken up and was no good for two years,” Pellow said. “Within two weeks of him (Syverud) coming here, that was fixed.”

Many needed repairs, such as the stairway, fall under the category of deferred maintenance, said Sam Leitermann, vice president for internal affairs of the Graduate Student Organization. There are vast differences in classroom quality across campus as a result of deferred maintenance, Leitermann said.

“It leads to a very different experience depending on where you live or spend your time,” Leitermann said. “But it’s also very easy to classify a new building as a nice building and to think it’s got more priority.”

Now, Leitermann said the university is looking at areas that haven’t been maintained as well to try and create a more quality student experience in all buildings on campus.

“I think that’s one of the assessments that’s ongoing, is looking at where we haven’t maintained as well as we could and bringing everything up to a threshold,” Leitermann said.

Increases in capital costs

Finding money to build Newhouse III was a relatively easy process for David Rubin.

Rubin, former dean of the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, and Kenneth “Buzz” Shaw, former chancellor of Syracuse University, secured a $15 million gift from the Newhouse family — enough to cover about half the cost of the building, he said. The remaining capital costs were also covered by donations, he said.

If a school or college cannot raise all the money to pay for a new building, they have several options, Rubin said. The university may look to its own donor base, such as the Board of Trustees, or task the Office of Development with locating donors. The last and least desirable option is for the school to take out a bond, he said.

“It’s ideal if private donors pay for buildings,” Rubin said. “On this campus, that’s not the rule. The university is bonded for a lot of buildings.”

Lou Marcoccia, executive vice president and chief financial officer for SU, said every building situation depends on its fundraising potential and how the project fits into the university’s priorities. The university sets aside funds for capital costs in its fiscal budget, but yearly spending fluctuates based on the kinds of construction or renovation projects SU takes on.

According to a report from Bain and Co., SU’s capital costs increased 17 percent between 2010 and 2013. Recently, Marcoccia said the university’s capital costs largely increased due to the construction of Dineen Hall.

In 2013, SU spent $82 million on capital projects. In 2014, SU spent $116 million on capital costs — $50 million of which was spent on the construction of Dineen Hall, Marcoccia said. This year, the university has set aside $32 million for capital projects.

The university also plans to use $171 million out of the $1 billion raised in the billion-dollar campaign to help fund future capital projects, Marcoccia said.

But even though donors pledged $1 billion to the university, it doesn’t mean that the money is able to be spent right away, said Craig Dudczak, former chair of the University Senate Budget Committee.

“While it was widely reported in exceeding the $1 billion campaign, that’s not a billion dollars cash in hand,” Dudczak said. “Some of that money may be years in coming because they may be bequests that are seen after a person’s demise.”

Syverud’s Fast Forward Initiative may be an effort to pause and look at the university’s spending, academic mission and overall vision, Dudczak said. The hope is that the vision and the university’s capital needs will work hand in hand, he said.

“So I think it might be fair to say that in roughly the last year or so there’s probably been a hold on commitments as we try to figure out a longer range plan,” Dudczak said.

Envisioning the future

Every 10 years, the university produces a Campus Master Plan that evaluates SU’s campus environment and physical form. Cathryn Newton, Professor and Dean Emerita of Earth Sciences, serves on the Campus Master Plan Advisory Group and said the biggest issues being discussed are security and the need for more common spaces.

“The most pressing space questions facing our campus do not begin whether to do something, but they begin with the word how,” Newton said.

First, the Campus Master Plan will look at how the university currently uses its buildings, so that it can identify the university’s climate, Leitermann said. It will then “synthesize” information provided by individual students, faculty and staff into one to decide the university’s biggest needs.

The last Campus Master Plan, which was compiled in 2003, had several focus areas, but ended up with few successes, Leitermann said. The report proposed renovating the Carnegie Library, which was completed last January.

Sasaki Associates, a Massachusetts-based architecture and design firm who presented the results of the Campus Master Plan survey to the SU community last month, won’t be completing any actual renovations, but will inform the advisory group where the university could build new buildings in the future, Leitermann said. If the university decides to construct a new facility, they can refer to the Campus Master Plan in the future to find spaces where they can build, he said.

Leitermann said he believes the work completed by the Strategic Plan, Operation Excellence and Campus Master Plan will allow for a better, stronger vision for the university than before.

Said Leitermann: “Hopefully we do a better job of creating a document that we can look at 10 years down the road and say, ‘Hey, we guessed right.’”

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