On Monday, August 28, President Benson spoke with The Eastern Progress. The meeting occurred after The Progress released an article comparing how EKU is becoming an UK-style campus.
The meeting started with questions about recent renovations that have been going on around campus. With the Greek Towers having been torn down, one of the questions asked was when construction would begin on the new Rec Center.
Benson first addressed the fact that the old Rec Center wouldn’t be given to the football team, but instead would be given to the exercise science department.
“It will be used for educational purposes,” Benson said.
Classes, labs and a place for students to study will be the focus for the old building, Benson said. The new Rec Center is scheduled to go into construction during the first or second week of November.
Benson said all of the construction, student fees and the changes that will take place on campus. President Benson said how he didn’t want EKU to lose its hometown feel, but he did want to keep campus updated.
He added that he realizes all of the construction is inconvenient for students and faculty, but that, “there was one new dorm built in 40 years.” He said he didn’t want students to come to EKU and everything be outdated, because then no one would want to attend EKU.
This past spring, the EKU Student Senate approved a fee for students. Students will be responsible for paying $150 in fees to essentially re-build campus.
The fee is being described as, “a fixed special-use fee of $150 per semester that will go toward improving, renovating and/or constructing student-centered facilities.” Even though many students may not be very happy with all of the fees, there isn’t much they can do about it.
Part-time undergraduates will be paying $12.50 per credit hour while part-time graduate students will pay $16.67 per credit hour. President Benson said the fee is applied regardless of where or how you take your classes.
This means that online and regional campus students are sharing the cost when it comes to improving the campus as a whole.
In the interest of keeping everything fair for all students, no appeals can be made for this fee and exemptions from the fee will not be considered for anyone.
“I am a commuter and a senior,” said Noena Zerna, chief news editor for the Eastern Progress. “I don’t get to see all of the changes and won’t be here to enjoy them, so I don’t understand why I’m being charged the fee.”
Zerna said she had questions as to why all students were getting charged fees for the on-going construction. Benson said he wanted students to look at the fees as an investment into their alma mater.
North Hall, Martin Hall and the New Science Building Phase 2 are among some of the new buildings on campus, with to come.
With all of the new buildings and heavy construction on campus, it is expected that tuition will rise in the future since it has already increased 5 percent since last year. Tuition and fees are higher than they have ever been for EKU students.
The Powell building will also be undergoing construction. There will be a Starbucks, Steak ‘n Shake and places for students to study. Some students are even hoping for a bowling alley or a movie theatre.
“That’s not our building, that’s your building, the students’ building,” Benson said. Renovation for Powell will begin in January.
EKU and Aramark Educational Services LLC have reached a $37 million agreement in which Aramark will finance and construct a dining facility on the Richmond campus and provide food services for the campus for the next 15 years. Even though students will not be charged a fee for the new dining hall, the new dining hall will play a big part in tuition increasing.
As for other projects such as the parking garage, Paul Gannoe, interim associate vice president of facilities services & capital planning said it is currently scheduled to be complete in the middle of October.
“The roundabout by Whitlock is part of the overall campus master plan and will remain,” Gannoe said. “We are also starting utility relocation soon for the bypass pedway and hope to have the contractor who will build the pedway under contract within about 30 days.”
EKU is partnering with several architects to develop a comprehensive “New Campus Master Plan and Space Utilization Program for Eastern Kentucky University and the Eastern Kentucky University Foundation’s Properties.”
Officials involved with this planning exercise say that the master plan will be inclusive and involve the entire university community, as well as local leaders and alumni.
Students should expect to see most or all of these projects finished by 2020.