The Board of Trustees Thursday heard pleas to approve construction of a biosciences building on campus because of inadequate workspace in Brooks Hall.
The lack of space in Brooks has been well documented and was rehashed by Dean of the College of Science and Technology Ian Davison, Biology Department Chairman Steve Roberts, Professor of Biology Jennifer Schisa, Assistant Professor of Earth and Atmospheric Science Deric Learman and Saline senior Angie Hollis.
Davison, along with the many other members from the biology department, shared their frustrations with the building and how the department has outgrown the space.
“We have reached the point where we need more space and more quality space. Whenever this new building is built, it will be filled right away,” Davison said.
Talks of improving Brooks have been happening since 2002, and CMU representatives presented the building to the state as a top project in 2008.
Though a schematic design for the new biosciences building was approved at December’s board meeting and the state has pledged $30 million in funding toward the $95 million facility, the board has yet to approve the job.
University President George Ross said the university is thinking the plans through.
“We are going through our due diligence and we want to be as transparent as we can be. Our decision was leaning toward presenting the plans to the board, but then what we heard from our space planners as part of the facilities master plan and the shortage of laboratory space really cemented it for us,” Ross said.
Board of Trustees Chairperson Brian Fannon echoed Ross’ thoughts.
“I believe there is no delay in the project. We just have to ask ourselves if the university really needs the building and if it is in our vision and mission,” he said. “If it isn’t, we shouldn’t build it. If it is, then we should find a way to build it. That’s what we are working on now.”
For now, it looks as if a plan could be presented at the next board meeting.
“I think there will be something about this brought to the board in April or July. The feeling is that we should proceed if we can afford to do it,” Fannon said.
Davison is hopeful the April meeting will bring progress so the college can move forward. In July, Davison told Central Michigan Life that plans to move the project along would happen at the September or December board meeting.
While schematics were reviewed in December, the board stopped short of voting on funding, with trustee Sarah Opperman leading discussion of whether it would be wise for the university to allocate $65 million toward the building.
“We obviously have to get the financing done, because the board wants to see how we are going to pay for this building that is very expensive,” Davison said. “I think we can get it done by April and move forward. It’s going to take a long time to build this building, so it would be nice if future generations of students can be looking forward to this.”
A new emphasis has been placed on the building with the future opening of the College of Medicine, which will further increase the amount of biology majors on campus.
“Brooks is a Sputnik-era building whose builders never could have imagined the type of growth we are experiencing,” Roberts said. “One out of every 15 majors at CMU is signed in biology. In a matter of years, we have gone from 450 biology majors to 1,000. Based on my experiences at two other universities where medical schools have been founded, it is expected that the amount of biology majors will rise.”
Trustees took a tour of Brooks on Wednesday and saw some of the issues in the hall first hand.
“I am in the building often … I know the building and I know the challenges there,” Ross said. “The walk through just reinforced it for me.”