Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Re-Engineering of Northrop Auditorium

Another Vast Project from the Half Vast

Morrill Hall Gang?

There is an amazing document for consideration at this week's University of Minnesota Board of Regents Meeting. Unfortunately, it is embedded in a huge pdf file on the BoRe web site. When I first read it, I thought it was a satire because of some of the over-the-top claims made by Morrill Hall wordsmiths. It sounded like something that OurProvost might have written.

"Engaging the people of Minnesota with the world’s leading public figures and change-makers who will challenge us to consider and engage in the most pressing issues of our time."

"The convening place where the greatest minds in the world routinely share innovative ideas and creative work."

"Using new technologies to provide a global platform to engage leaders from around the world and connect the University with global audiences."
Certainly sounds like Tom...

Executive summary: The Morrill Hall Gang wants to re-engineer (NOT renovate) Northrop in a way that will cost $80 million that we should not be spending for this purpose given our current fiancial situation. Please note that I fully support getting Northrop up to code, but what is being talked about here is far from that.

From that document:

"... the reconfigured facility will be a physical embodiment of the University’s “Transforming the U” and “Driven to Discover” initiatives."

Bad start...

"Further, stewardship of this existing University resource through renovation demonstrates a commitment to sustainability, the identity and history of the institution, and fiscal responsibility."

This would be nice if it were true - but it isn't. This is far from a renovation that brings Nothrop into code compliance and it is fiscally irresponsible under the present circumstances.
"Recently, people on campus have described Northrop as uninviting, impenetrable, a 'mausoleum,' under-utilized, and an obstacle to their destination."

[NOTE: added May 18, from a letter to the Strib:

May 17, 2010

This is the season of graduations at the University of Minnesota.

When I step out of our building, I see families with joy on their faces walking toward Northrop Auditorium. I see mothers and fathers, younger and older siblings, and even grandparents all walking toward Northrop.

They are attending the graduation of their brother or sister, or son or daughter, or grandson or granddaughter.

This is a day that mothers and fathers dreamt about when their child was born; they planned for this day all those years when their child was growing up and going to school, and they probably had to put aside money to pay for it all.

But today -- today is graduation, the culmination of it all. Today their child becomes a person to be reckoned with, a professional, someone who will change the world. For me, a professor, this is the happiest time of the academic year, for I had a small part in these graduates' educations. I, too, am proud of them and wish them well.


So much for a mausoleum...]

Who were these people? Provost Sullivan, Pfutz, VP O'Brien, the Cultural Czar?

"Yet, their memory of Northrop is more of a feeling and not architecturally specific."

Cough, cough...
"Phase II is required to bring Northrop into the 21st century and to ensure its longevity for the future."

Ah, the old 21st century gambit. That won't fly. More ramped up and over the top reasons to come?
"It will serve students and faculty and become an icon for the University in its mission to become a world-renowned institution."

In case you folks have not noticed Northrop already is an icon and the U is a world-renowned institution.

"The reconfigured Northrop will advance the University’s goal of recruiting extraordinary students and ensure their retention and timely completion of degrees."

Ah, so that's the reason for retention problems and untimely completion of degrees - it has all been Northrop's fault? Have you folks no shame?
"Innovation by Design – a collaborative innovation framework that brings together faculty and industry to address compelling global, social and market needs that defy solutions from a single discipline. Breakthroughs lead to intellectual property, products, and services."

Is that anything like the Design Insitute? You remember the organization that was started by Mark Yudof but that was snuffed by the current Morrill Hall Gang because there's no glory in supporting your predecessor's programs.
"Engaging the people of Minnesota with the world’s leading public figures and change-makers who will challenge us to consider and engage in the most pressing issues of our time."

So, ah, how's that going to work? We couldn't even get 40 people to come and converse with Our President about the future of our university and people are going to flock to Northop to consider the most pressing issues of our time? What might those be?
"The convening place where the greatest minds in the world routinely share innovative ideas and creative work."

Routinely? Whoever wrote this should be ashamed of himself. First how is this going to be paid for? Or do you assume these great minds are going to come gratis because they want to be at Minnesota?
"Using new technologies to provide a global platform to engage leaders from around the world and connect the University with global audiences."

This reeks of OurProvost, the one who said: "our fundamental mission as a University must be deployed in service of the broader transnational learning process" What the hell does that mean?
Recognize current extraordinary financial realities by:

Advancing an overall capital plan that maintains current debt ratings

Relying on new revenues to help cover payment for debt costs

Leveraging state capital funding in conjunction with University and private resources

Wow! Recognize current extraordinary financial realities by ignoring them? Since we can maintain current debt ratings that justifies borrowing?
New revenues? Is this like the gravel and MoreU Park?

State capital funding? The administration does not have the guts to put this project in its capital funding request because it would get turned down for the boondoggle (at this time) that it is.

Private resources should NOT be siphoned off to pay for this as there is much greater need elsewhere right now. Finally HEAPR funds would be appropriate to use because the building does not meet code due to a deliberate strategy of neglect by this administation.
Northrop will be a bustling, dynamic, state-of-the-art, gathering place central to everyday life on campus, a destination where students, faculty, and members of the community will take advantage of technology-enriched meeting rooms for seminars, discussions, and collaboration. Symposia, concerts, recitals, screenings, debates and public forums will be everyday occurrences. Students, faculty and members of the community will gather for informal conversation at the café and in public study, lounge, and collaborative spaces. Northrop will be teeming with activity—all the time.

To the Morrill Hall Gang: Walk out the front of your building... Whoops, it's locked... Well go out the side and walk up to the plaza in front of Northrop. Read the inscription on the building. Then turn around 180 degrees. What do you see over there across the mall? Everything that you have been saying above can currently be done in Coffman. Fix Northrop by making it come up to code. Forget about the re-engineeing right now. It is not necessary in the current financial climate. It serves only to re-inforce your very big egos.
...programming will be expanded to create exhilarating, cultural experiences that will inspire students and the people of Minnesota, and will do so in collaboration with our community arts partners. We will work in partnership, not competition, with the community.

Malarkey! There is no need for such a facility. We already have excellent performance spaces on campus including the Ted Mann. As pointed out earlier we couldn't even fill the auditorium in Coffman for a presentation by the President on the future of the University. The University WILL be in competition with local arts organizations with this move whether the Morrill Hall Gang wants to admit it or not.

Northrop will be the place where the world’s leading public figures and change-makers challenge us to consider and engage in the most pressing issues facing the world – a community forum for deliberation and debate over the most innovative ideas and challenging issues of our time. Northrop will be the convening place where the greatest minds in the world routinely share innovative ideas and creative work. Through new technologies, Northrop will provide the University with a global platform to engage leaders from around the world and connect the University with global audiences. The New Northrop will foster world-class thinking at a world-class University.

Cough, cough... Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?
In summary, this bold vision will place Northrop at the crossroads of learning, discovery, arts, and community. It is a vision that will completely transform life at the University. It is a vision that will re-define the way the University connects with and serves the people of Minnesota.

Capital Budget Amendment Requested at this time

Cost Estimate/Budget for Predesign and Schematic Design:
Predesign and schematic design $ 2,531,206

Total Project Cost Estimate/Budget to be authorized in the future:

Construction Cost $64,068,000
Non Construction Cost 16,763,206
Total Future Project Cost Estimate/Budget $80,831,206

Funding Sources:

• Higher Education Asset Preservation & Replacement
• Fundraising
• University Debt
• Northrop Operating & Maintenance Funds

Total Future Project Capital Funding $78,300,000
Anticipated Total Project Capital Funding (this request plus future) $80,831,206

Time Schedule:

Approval of schematic Design: Spring 2010

Complete Construction: Spring/Summer 2013

Occupancy: Fall 2013

The above described project scope of work, cost, funding, and schedule is appropriate.

Richard Pfutzenreuter - Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

E. Thomas Sullivan - Provost

Steven Rosenstone - Vice President for Scholarly and Cultural Affairs

Kathleen O'Brien - Vice President for University Services

This list of names sure gives you a lot of confidence, doesn't it?

This re-engineering of Northrop is simply wrong.

A lame duck administration should not be allowed to do this at the same time that we are going over a financial cliff, especially since the President and many members of the Morrill Hall Gang will not be around to suffer the consequences.


1 comment:

Pets said...

to loose the largest seated theatre in the twin cities, to build a monument to the memory of the people proposing the Northrop re-do, is not being responsible to the people of Minnesota. The proposal places Northrop in direct competition with the State and Orpheum, which, situated in Downtown, do meet with a bustling community that is already there. The build-it-and-they-will-come mentality is a fiction that several suburbs are realizing right now. Keep hammering, Northrop needs help, but not this fix; which feels to be driven by egos, and not pragmatic.