Written by Luke Hunt
Earlier this month, MSU received a generous donation of $6 million from local business owners Tim and Mary Barnard, which has been pledged to the College of Engineering and to the South Campus development project. Tim Barnard is the founder of the Bozeman-based civil engineering company Barnard Companies INC, which regularly hires MSU graduates. There are currently 50 MSU graduates employed, including five members of the executive management team and 45 from various engineering fields.
The majority of the donation, $5 million, has been allocated to the south campus development project, which brings MSU within $3 million of its $70 million target. This includes the construction of the Norm Absjornson Innovation Center, which will aim to promote interdisciplinary engagement and respond to emerging trends in education. The center will be open to all students but will be anchored in the rapidly growing engineering department. The remainder of the donation will be earmarked for the engineering department itself.
This donation will aid MSU in the ‘WhatItTakes’ campaign they are currently running, aiming to raise $300 million for the university which will be used for various different projects, from scholarships and professorships to departmental improvements. However, it appears that a lot of this is being directed to the improvement and expansion of the engineering department, which is already world class. MSU prides itself in being a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) institution, but what about all the other fields?
There seems to be a lot of work to gain funding for the engineering department, but not much of a push to gain funding for other departments. Although boasting a technologically advanced campus, with excellent resources and conducive learning environments, there are still many areas that have need for improvement.
An important but run-down building on campus is Romney Gymnasium, built in 1922, which used to be considered an integral part of the campus, hosting a variety of cultural events; but now, nearly 100 years later, time hasn’t been kind. Although still structurally sound, the interior has become neglected and is underused, mainly featuring storage, a 10,000 foot abandoned swimming pool and some physical education classes. Plans to renovate Romney Gym have been proposed during the past two legislative sessions, but they have all fallen through for one reason or another. The building has a ton of potential to provide students with a quality learning environment, so it’s a shame they can’t align their plans and push a renovation budget through.
Another area that could utilise funding are the classrooms in Roberts Hall, Wilson Hall and anywhere else that has those ancient, small and uncomfortable desk/chair contraptions. The desk space is minimal, and barely sufficient for a notepad — nevermind a laptop. The inclination of the back is unforgiving and provides little to no lumbar support taking students one step closer to that hunchback they’ve always wanted.
Handicap accessibility is also something that could be significantly improved on campus, with a few buildings lacking elevators and ramps to the entrances, restricting people with mobility impairments from entering the building. Such buildings include but aren’t restricted to Herrick Hall and the aforementioned Romney Gymnasium. Funding could be justifiably used to install elevators and access ramps to these buildings and make campus more hospitable to those with disabilities and impairments.
Whilst the money pledged to engineering is greatly appreciated and MSU will be forever grateful to anyone who chooses to donate, there needs to be more effort in obtaining funding for the areas where it’s really required. Beneficiaries should be informed of the looming fallbacks of the campus through the campaign so they can help make the campus all-round exceptional.