Despite the group of graduate students waiting outside the doors of Walter Hall with picket signs and a bone to pick with university administration, the Ohio University Board of Trustees met last week to discuss campus renovations and the new “career services” fee.
With Board Chair Janetta King reaching the end of her allotted term, Vice Chair Dave Scholl was promoted to chair. Trustee Janelle Coleman was voted in as vice chair.
Here are some of the highlights from the March board meeting:
Graduate students picket for better health care
Graduate students picketed the board meeting in protest of below-average health care subsidies. The university covers 4 percent of the cost of graduate employee health insurance per year — about a $40 subsidy each semester.
With OU’s peer institutions covering an average of 89 percent of graduate student health insurance, members of the Graduate Employee Organization are asking the university to “be average” and match subsidies of comparable universities.
“A concern that has come up over and over again is the high costs of the student health insurance plan,” GEO Co-President Elliot Long said. “The plan costs almost $2,000 a year for a student to insure her or himself.”
The future of Park Place
The Park Place corridor — which refers to the stretch dividing Alden Library and Baker Center, is set to undergo major renovations in the coming years.
Trustees approved two significant projects, including the $2.3 million renovation of 29 Park Place, which served as the presidential residence in previous years. The residence, as well as its neighboring carriage house, will be turned into space for student activities.
University Planner Shawna Bolin said the first floor of the residence will be open to the public for “community activity,” and the driveway will be removed to create a green space. The terrace behind the residence will also undergo updates and could be turned into a community garden, OU President Duane Nellis said.
Trustees also approved $1.5 million in design and construction costs for the renovation of Konneker Alumni Center, which houses the OU Alumni Association.
Bidding will begin this summer for the 29 Park Place and Konneker Center projects, Bolin said, and construction will likely begin in summer 2019, following the design phase.
New life for residence halls
With 50 percent of residence halls at the university set to turn 50 years or older in the next four years, trustees discussed the future of OU’s aging campus. South Green is the largest residential green on campus with 18 buildings and a collective backlog of more than $80 million in deferred maintenance.
The Resources Committee proposed a new room design, known as “pod style,” which would house about 16 people per pod and include a shared bathroom and lounge area.
Although six more South Green buildings are slated to be torn down — following the demolition of six back South buildings in 2016-17 — Wray, Hoover and Ewing will be kept empty for “future swing space.” A recreational area will be constructed in place of the demolished residence halls.
The committee also discussed potential construction of a new 400-bed residence hall, which would be behind Mackinnon and Crawford halls.
New details about the 'career services' fee
Approved by the board in January, the “career services” fee will cost students an estimated $576 over the course of four years.
The university will assess a fee of $6 per credit hour to each incoming cohort of Athens and regional campus undergraduate students beginning this fall, according to the March board agenda.
During its first year, the fee will generate incremental revenue of about $845,000, about $1.5 million in the second year, $2.1 million in year three and $2.75 million in the fourth year.