Posted at 12 p.m. Oct. 18, 2013

Building Forward?

Let's #slowdownlCCC


A walk through the halls of Laramie County Community College shows changes everywhere we look: a new bookstore, a set of new offices, less space in the Campus Community Center and posters and pamphlets everywhere for the Building Forward campaign to construct two new buildings on campus.

However, the glamour and appeal of newness hold little sparkle for us at Wingspan, who simply see signs of an institution so eager to grow, it doesn’t matter which direction it builds, forward or otherwise.

We can start by looking at the remodel and expansion of the new dining facility a few years ago. Some newer students might not realize, but the cafeteria had been a hub for the on-campus community. Students would study at its large tables, hold club or group meetings and just hang out with friends between classes.

In 2010, the remodeled dining facility flaunted a beautiful, open space, expansive windows and light and comfortable chairs and tables. Perhaps one of the most vexing parts is student fees are still paying for the construction of this $6,074,166 facility, yet we are prohibited from entering without buying a meal.

Of course, students can congregate in other places although those are growing smaller as well and being filled in with concrete.

Temporary fix but cost is high

While tuition rises and budget cuts take money from student aid, the latest remodeling projects from the college administration and trustees came in the form of several impractical renovations during the summer.

This included a new bookstore, where students can look forward to an experience similar to visiting a very slow-moving dry cleaners, waiting in line with their stubs amid hanging clothing, not a pen or calculator in sight (when the semester started). It’s only missing a middle-aged, surly man in a stained undershirt working the counter.

LCCC’s President Dr. Joe Schaffer said the move of the bookstore was designed as a temporary fix to make it more centrally located and efficient, but not a permanent home. The real new bookstore will be part of the new student center, designed as part of the Building Forward project facilities.

This bookstore move also necessitated the building of a new home for those whose offices were in the Living and Learning Center, where the bookstore now resides, by filling in part of the College Community Center. They even built an extra office to house meetings of student groups like the Student Government Association, with which Schaffer said he has yet to be completely satisfied because so far it just has a desk and a camera for student IDs.

Our question then becomes: Why are we spending money during a year of budget cuts to move and remodel services we plan to place in an entirely different building anyway?

These are not the only costly building projects being constructed for only temporary reasons. Earlier this year, a 2,000 square foot, $329,000 addition was built onto the Career and Technical Building, on the east side of campus, to house the resurrection of the welding program at LCCC. This might seem like a well-thought out use of funds, given all the research on the probability of success of a welding program returning to campus. However, the Building Forward project includes an entire building devoted to space for new programs, including welding.

Although a supporter of the Building Forward project, LCCC trustee Dr. Kevin Kilty compared the construction of the welding extension to planning an addition onto your house and, in the meantime, spending a lot of money to renovate a room you already have to fulfill the same purpose as the addition.

This sounds awfully familiar when looking at the book store move and other unnecessary projects.

This brings us to the Building Forward project itself. The proposed design would include a new student center and a University of Wyoming satellite program to help students work on four-year degrees.

Plans under way for needs unmet by student center plans

The goal, at least, is sound.

The student center is designed to be, as the campaign literature puts it, a “one-stop-shop for students.” However, a September meeting of the LCCC Board of Trustees included a proposal to build a student Learning Commons somewhere in or around the Ludden Library. This facility would include a coffee shop, classroom space, study and tutoring areas and centralize student services such as Disability Services, the language lab and the writing and communication center, currently spread haphazardly around campus.

Sounds great! Except wait. Aren’t we already asking the voters of Laramie County in a special election Nov. 5 to approve a bond issue to pay increased property taxes, which would fund this huge “one-stop-shop” student center? So why are we planning yet another completely separate space for academic student services? Shouldn’t that have been in the plans for the student center?

Wingspan is then concerned, rather than realizing the current plans were incomplete and waiting to bring a fully formed student center idea to the voters in the 2014 general election, the college is continuing with the current Building Forward bond issue and, worse, planning yet another project called the Learning Commons to make up for the lack of planning on the previous.

This feels more and more like building facilities without planning and then just building more to make up for what was left out.

Considering for more than a year now teams of LCCC staff, architects, lawyers, bonding experts, special polling companies and more have been working on the Building Forward project, Wingspan finds this disconcerting.

Can we as an institution really ask county residents to pass a bond issue to pay for such an expensive and large-scale project considering our track record?

The Building Forward project includes many great ideas and has the ability to open up opportunities to students, but why not take a step back and ensure we’re building a structure that fulfills all the needs it claims. It’s difficult to ask the community to approve a tax when we’re already planning the next project to make up for what was left out of this one.

Wingspan calls upon the trustees to reflect upon the scale of their actions in their rush to build a bigger, better college. No one agreed on a mission statement that said: “Build now and ask questions later.”

We ask the leaders of this institution to slow down and take more time to look at the effects of the steps they have already taken before rushing onto the next one. We are thrilled to be a part of an institution wanting so fervently to improve our college and better serve our community, but every now and then we must stop and ask ourselves: Are we truly “building forward?” Or are we just building?



September 2013 editorial