I thought the student government leaders went to the Legislature to lobby for funds to keep the education part of Southern Oregon University intact and without slashing departments. I didn't know the student government leaders went to lobby for funds for building renovations. Can you enlighten me? I don't know the workings of the Legislature, but if they can spend $21.8 million for capital improvements, why can't they restore the teaching and education segment of the university?
— Wendy E., via email
Though we don't know all the inner workings of the Legislature ourselves, Wendy, we can shed some light on the recent funding received by Southern Oregon University.
While the university is undergoing retrenchment and making academic cuts they expect will save more than $6 million annually, some money was secured by student lobbyists during the past legislative session, and $21.3 million was secured for seismic upgrades and deferred maintenance to a school building that campus leaders found to be life-threateningly unstable.
House Bill 5202 redirected $500,000 from the Chancellor's Office general fund to SOU, as emergency one-time assistance for the university.
The funding will be used in the academic sphere of SOU, not for building renovations, and the student lobbyists who helped secure the funds say they plan to watch closely how the administration uses the money.
As part of a separate house bill, SOU also secured $21.3 million for seismic renovations to the McNeal Pavilion, the structure that houses SOU's Outdoor Program offices, gym, dance studio, basketball court and pool.
Built in 1957 and added onto twice since, significant corrosion has been found in some of the building's concrete walls by engineers, and the university was told that without a renovation, the walls would likely fail.
According to SOU's report to the Legislature, "wall failures will occur unless the implementation of permanent solutions occurs."
Additional deferred maintenance includes an update to the building's decades-old plumbing and HVAC systems, and replacement of fire alarms and sprinklers at the point of failure.
The project was ranked as an "immediate life safety concern" by the Oregon University System.
Imperative capital projects and general funding allocations are considered separately by the Legislature.
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