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Campus Construction Boondoggles?

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Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby NullDevice » Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:02 am

This week's Opinion section cites the replacement of Union South, Humanities, Van Vleck, and Van Hise as "boondoggles" and suggests that this will damage the UW's architechtural heritage.

I know the author went to the UW, but I have to ask - did he ever go inside any of those buildings during his time here?

I was a CS major, and spent most of my time shuttling between the CS and Engineering buildings. Union South was pretty much my only convenient stop for lunch or campus services during the day, and let's face it, the old USouth was a hole. You could guess just by walking in that it was "underutilized" simply because it was depressing, unfriendly, and completely lacking in utility for your average student organization.

From what I understand, the new USouth is going to be significantly less brutalist in design, fully LEED-certified and actually have better designed multipurpose rooms (for those of you that remember Diversions and dmf, that cafeteria was never the ideal space for a live music venue), plus additional office space for campus services.

And Humanities? Seriously, the guy is defending Humanities as "architectural heritage?" The few times I wasn't on the engineering campus, I was in Humanities for rehearsals. That building had terrible climate control, bizarre layout, large problems with humidity regulation (great for musical instruments!), only one hall had decent acoustics (also great for musical instruments). Plus, since the get-go it's always been ugly as hell. The only downside to rebuilding that place is that film majors won't have a go-to location for their dystopian-future student films.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Kringle » Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:18 am

There are nice views of Madison from the top of Van Hise and Van Vleck.
I have fond memories of being maced in the stairwell outside the Regent's meeting in Van Hise, while demonstrating against apartheid.
During the anti-Vietnam War demonstrations in the 1960s I heard the police shot teargas into Humanities during classes.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Bwis53 » Fri Aug 28, 2009 8:27 am

Are they building a chimney on the front of Chadbourne Hall? Is it inhabitable?
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:05 am

Why did they post this editorial? This guy lists tuition costs and fees, but doesn't understand there are a number of reasons for these increases besides new buildings. Did he do any fact checking to see that some of these projects are privately funded?

Union South was a crap hole. I never went there as a student cause it sucked. If they can build something that will withstand the test of time, that would be great. The Memorial Union is a perfect example. As far as some of the other projects; these buildings were old, cramp and in need of repair and expansion.

I for one am glad to see the Campus growing and changing. I don't want a stagnant University that doesn't address the need for improvement and growth.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Bad Gradger » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:33 am

Stebben84 wrote:Why did they post this editorial? This guy lists tuition costs and fees, but doesn't understand there are a number of reasons for these increases besides new buildings. Did he do any fact checking to see that some of these projects are privately funded?

To be fair, private funds don't pay for maintenance or utilities. The new Union South will probably be a wash or better, but most of the other construction is new capacity that'll be lit and cleaned with state and tuition dollars.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Stebben84 » Fri Aug 28, 2009 9:49 am

Bad Gradger wrote:
Stebben84 wrote:Why did they post this editorial? This guy lists tuition costs and fees, but doesn't understand there are a number of reasons for these increases besides new buildings. Did he do any fact checking to see that some of these projects are privately funded?

To be fair, private funds don't pay for maintenance or utilities. The new Union South will probably be a wash or better, but most of the other construction is new capacity that'll be lit and cleaned with state and tuition dollars.


I realize that. He made reference to the half a billion dollars in construction without noting private donations. It's a bit disingenuous. The one thing I would hope is that these new capacity constructions will try to utilize more energy efficiency to help reduce the costs.

In the end I felt it was a very ill-informed editorial from someone who is still livin' in the good ol' days.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby supaunknown » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:21 am

I disagreed with the op piece. The new construction pumps a lot of money into the community and shows that UW is willing to invest in itself, making things nicer for everybody. That's more attractive to quality employees and prospective students alike.


P.S. off-topic to NullDevice
Great guest bloggery on the importance/need for good audio mastering. I really dug it.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby boston_jeff » Fri Aug 28, 2009 10:54 am

Totally agree. As a person who has spent his entire adult life on university campuses, I can attest to the fact that:
-some of the worst university architecture and design occurred during the periods that these dinosaurs were built.
-new building projects offer expanded services and nicer facilities to the university community.
-building is great for the local economy.
-the oldest, most tradition-bound buildings on every campus are rarely if ever razed.
-money for building projects can be privately donated.
-if pork is secured to pay for new buildings, I don't really have a problem with it, particularly if the research that is conducted in these buildings is largely grant-funded.
-tuition and fees go up every year on most US campuses, there is no direct connection between construction and increases.

And yeah, Union South was a shithole. I for one, can't wait for the new one. It was the closest lunchspot and bank machine for me until they tore it down.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby wallrock » Fri Aug 28, 2009 11:01 am

Right, a UW-Platteville English professor bitches about UW Madison's building construction, complete with the mention of the rescinded "paltry 2%" pay raise and the furloughs, as if they kept Union South as is he'd be getting his money. Did he write an op-ed to the Platteville paper when the Ullsvik Center was renovated? Doubtful.

I even liked Union South but I knew that place had to go. The University isn't talking about replacing these buildings because they're over 30 years old, they're replacing them because buildings constructed in the 1960's were crap. The old historic buildings on campus survived because they were well built.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby comm300 » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:06 am

Stebben84 wrote:Why did they post this editorial? This guy lists tuition costs and fees, but doesn't understand there are a number of reasons for these increases besides new buildings. Did he do any fact checking to see that some of these projects are privately funded?

Union South was a crap hole. I never went there as a student cause it sucked. If they can build something that will withstand the test of time, that would be great. The Memorial Union is a perfect example. As far as some of the other projects; these buildings were old, cramp and in need of repair and expansion.

I for one am glad to see the Campus growing and changing. I don't want a stagnant University that doesn't address the need for improvement and growth.


The construction of Union South is somewhat suspicious because only 4.6% of the student body voted for Union South - a "fun" facility. Some insiders say those students, who voted for Union South, were hoodwinked because one primary purpose of Union South is to provide a hotel and recreational venue for the Wis Institute of Discovery. So WID is getting a free hotel and fun center which is largely paid by students by raising student fees by $198/yr.
Last edited by comm300 on Sat Aug 29, 2009 10:18 am, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby comm300 » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:28 am

.
Last edited by comm300 on Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:55 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby comm300 » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:52 am

supaunknown wrote:I disagreed with the op piece. The new construction pumps a lot of money into the community and shows that UW is willing to invest in itself, making things nicer for everybody. That's more attractive to quality employees and prospective students alike.


Yes, money is pumped into Madison on these construction projects. But that is a short tem benefit. The construction cost amounts to only 10% of the building's life cyle cost. For every $1 spent on new buildings there are $9 spent on perpetual liabilities like repairs, maintenance, utilities, security, insurance, debt service (if not donor-funded). Remember the debate of the donor-funded Overture Center in Madison! Worse, every new UW building triggers the need to build support infrastructure such as heating and cooling plants (the new $200 million Cogeneration plant on the west side of campus is being paid by all MG&E ratepayers), electrical substations, utility tunnels, sidewalks, etc. Worse yet, every new UW building increases government positions and corresponding employee salaries and benefits. Those are the biggest costs - do tax payers and fee payers like that?
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby snoqueen » Sat Aug 29, 2009 12:45 pm

I like it.

I believe education (and facilities for education) are a good public expenditure. Education increases the value of our workforce, improves quality of life, provides meaningful jobs, and much more. I think we should support public education at all levels and the university is the level where we see the greatest return for our investment.

Of course more infrastructure may be needed, but think of the improved energy efficiency of new construction over these leaky old 70s buildings. Some of the new ones will use less than half the energy per square foot than the old ones. And bringing even part of the campus up to LEED-level efficiency would be a huge accomplishment. The university should be leading the way and setting an example, not lagging behind and patching up unsalvageable, crumbling heaps of concrete.

And of course new facilities provide both long-term and short term jobs! The university, along with state government in general, are some of the city's biggest employers. The jobs are decently-paid and provide society with much return value. Don't forget Google recently opened a small location here just because of their connections with some university professors. The University can bring in more jobs in biotech, engineering, agriculture, environmental, medical, and other areas than anybody else. Th very diversity of the university's offerings provides Madison with unparalleled economic security.

The other end of the spectrum is Janesville, which relied for years on GM jobs and is currently in deep trouble. Sure, Overture was a boondoggle and we're going to pay, but public education investment is nothing like building a white-elephant pleasure palace. Education dollars are working dollars with a significant long-term return.

To paraphrase somebody, "We cannot as a nation survive by frying hamburgers and selling them to each other." Without some coordinated public efforts to support our city, our educational facilities, and our way of life that's where we're headed. Why would anyone would choose the hamburger route?
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby Stebben84 » Sat Aug 29, 2009 6:01 pm

comm300 wrote:So WID is getting a free hotel and fun center which is largely paid by students by raising student fees by $198/yr.


I have a feeling being so close to Camp Randall that many people are going to utilize this hotel.

comm300 wrote:The construction cost amounts to only 10% of the building's life cyle cost. For every $1 spent on new buildings there are $9 spent on perpetual liabilities like repairs, maintenance, utilities, security, insurance, debt service (if not donor-funded).


I'm not quite sure where you got these statistics, but for the sake of argument I'll call them true. The problem is that WID is the only building that is "new" in this editorial. Most of the other are just improvements or expansions. Union South will get bigger and the Chazen is an expansion. Most of the others are just making the buildings better so these statistics are a bit misleading to the argument.

comm300 wrote:Worse yet, every new UW building increases government positions and corresponding employee salaries and benefits. Those are the biggest costs - do tax payers and fee payers like that?


Some will probably hate it. Scan through the Madison.com forums and you'll see we are turning into Cuba. But these do create jobs and considering our unemployment rate is not zero, I'll take it as a positive sign. A lot of these places have the ability to generate revenue for the University and the State. That revenue does help to offset salaries and benefits. I might also add that we're helping to employ a hole hell of a lot of construction workers. The more money they make, the more they spend in the city and pay sales tax.

I might be wasting my breath responding to Comm300 cause I sense some Ayn Rand tendencies coming forward. I best be careful.
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Re: Campus Construction Boondoggles?

Postby green union terrace chair » Wed Sep 09, 2009 4:19 am

comm300 wrote:The construction of Union South is somewhat suspicious because only 4.6% of the student body voted for Union South - a "fun" facility. Some insiders say those students, who voted for Union South, were hoodwinked because one primary purpose of Union South is to provide a hotel and recreational venue for the Wis Institute of Discovery. So WID is getting a free hotel and fun center which is largely paid by students by raising student fees by $198/yr.


... for the next thirty years.

There will be students, grad students even, paying for this thing who haven't even been born yet.
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