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The Central Classroom Building on West Union Street in Athens, Ohio Jan. 30, 2024

Campus Space Optimization Initiative aims to reduce university spending

The Ohio University Board of Trustees received an update from Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration and CFO John Day about the Campus Space Optimization Initiative during the Jan. 19 meeting.  

The initiative is a push to refine the learning spaces available on campus to both students and staff while reducing the amount of physical space the university has to save money.

“Space is the second-most costly thing we have at the university, behind people,” Day said. “The goal of this study is to optimize our space as the name implies so that we don't need as much space as we have and then get rid of space, which then gets rid of cost.”

According to an OHIO News report, results of an analysis taken for the initiative showed students need more informal spaces to study and get together. 

“The way people learn these days is more of a fluid mixture of spaces and so we're trying to pay attention to the changes that are happening in the way people want to use our facilities,” Day said.

Day said most freshmen and sophomores on campus see around 26 classrooms due to how classes are matched to courses and programs, while OU owns many more classrooms that are not being used effectively.

The project includes seven overlapping phases spanning from 2023 to 2026 and beyond, according to the OHIO report. These phases are strategically placed to allow for proper implementation and budgeting of spaces.

“We're just launching a classroom space governance committee where we have representatives from every college and trying to look at what kinds of classrooms we have and how we match up the others in there,” Day said.

Day said the initiative is already underway with the College of Fine Arts project. According to an OHIO News release, the project includes the construction of the Patton Arts Center and renovations to Seigfreid Hall. The new facility will feature a large theater, an indoor-outdoor performance and rehearsal space and an exhibition space.

“The biggest example that we've started already is the College of Fine Arts Project,” Day said. “We're looking at rather than building a whole bunch of space for theater and then some for dance and some for art, when in fact they could actually use the similar space and share the space better. Every time we have projects like this, we'll be looking at that kind of thing.”

Day said classrooms and meeting spaces in all buildings will be evaluated eventually. Offices and other spaces that are less vital to a student’s overall learning environment will come next but have lower priority.

The LEARN initiative is also currently taking place on campus with the hope of better accommodating the wishes of students and staff. David Nguyen, Dean of the University College, said OU has been working with students, faculty, staff and alumni, to collect data and opinions through surveys about how the university can improve. 

“The idea for the dynamic strategy is the ideas that are presented are implementable over a three-year period,” Nguyen said. “Not necessarily thinking, ‘Where will we be in 10 years as an institution?' but ‘What are things that can be achieved in a three-year time frame?’” 

Nguyen said the ideas and comments gathered during the research will be presented during the upcoming university updates meeting Feb. 19. After the meeting, there will be a phase of feedback solicitation before presenting final ideas to the Board of Trustees in a future meeting. 

These initiatives on campus are a product of the Six Year Capital Improvement Plan. According to OU’s website, the plan is OU’s strategy to “preserve and enhance facilities through a projection of new construction and renovation projects.”

“The capital plan is a constant shuffle game on that and looking at where you can put things," Day said. “Even though you can look at our six-year capital plan, it won't be what will happen over the next six years. A plan is never forever, it is always going to be evolving.”


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