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 SRU trustees OK plan to build new Performance and Classroom Lab 



December 4, 2009

CONTACT: K.E. Schwab



SRU trustees OK plan to build new Performance and Classroom Lab 


SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - Slippery Rock University's Council of Trustees today took the initial step in authorizing President Robert Smith to seek appropriate financing for construction of a new Performance and Classroom Laboratory Facility.

           The new facility will be a joint financial undertaking involving the commonwealth, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and private funding. 

           In approving the resolution, trustees noted the University has demonstrated a need for the new facility and has a viable financial plan for funding its share of the project. The funding plan now goes to the Pennsylvania State System board of governors for final approval.

           The facility will primarily serve the University's theatre and dance departments, with the art and music departments making use of its performance areas. The facility will be located near the site of the proposed new Student Union on space formerly occupied by the Harner, Bard and Dodds residence halls. The halls were demolished last year as part of SRU's move to new, suite-style residence halls built by the Slippery Rock University Foundation Inc.

           Design and construction of the performance lab are expected to take approximately two years with the center opening near the three-year mark.

           "This is a facility we have needed for quite some time," said Smith. "While we are facing some serious budget problems, some state system funds for capital projects such as this are available. We think it is an excellent opportunity for the University. We hope by moving now, we may be able to take advantage of lower construction material costs and at the same time provide jobs stimulus in the western Pennsylvania area as part of our construction effort."

           "Slippery Rock University is proud of its accreditations in the performing arts areas. This new facility will help us retain those accreditations and keep us listed among the nation's top credential programs," he said.

           "This is a project that will serve all of our students," said Eric Holmes, a trustee and 1993 SRU graduate. "In addition to students academically involved in the various performing arts areas, students attending programs in the facility and those involved in such areas as communication, journalism and public relations will make use of it. I am a big supporter of the arts, and I think this will be a tremendous addition to the campus."

           The new facility will include a proscenium theatre; a black box theatre; offices for dance and theatre faculty; shops for theatre production, including costume and set design; and rehearsal areas for dance students. The building's lobby area will be available for use as an art gallery.

          In updating trustees about the University's budget, Smith said, "Slippery Rock University continues to face the unprecedented financial challenges presented by the economic downturn, high unemployment and limited state tax resources. What troubles our future is the constant strain of our budget issues. In late October, the state sorted out the budget allocation for 2009-2010 to PASSHE with mixed results: PASSHE received a total of $503,355,000 from state and federal sources, including $27,068,000 in federal funds that was credited to the previous fiscal year. Those are "stimulus dollars." 

           He said the legislature eliminated Key 93 funds used for repair and maintenance, cutting $13,893,000 from the budget. "When the elimination of the Key 93 funds is taken into account, PASSHE total funding was reduced by 6.5 percent for funds identified as fiscal year 2009-2010. This difference was patched with additional federal stimulus funds as funds received in 2009-2010, resulting in an actual net increase of 3.8 percent to PASSHE."

          "Most significantly, the state base recurring appropriation was reduced from $477,322,000 to

          $444,470,000. We will need political will to replace those dollars just to get back to even with the 2008-09 budget," Smith said. "Those decisions had a substantial impact on SRU."

           "The one bright spot in the budget was that SRU earned $4,396,829 through performance funding, which covered the remaining portion of the budget deficit we had entering the 2009-10 fiscal year. The final result is that we are stable for this fiscal year," he said.

           He said work continues on next year's budget, including seeking input from faculty, staff and students on ways to increase income or cut expenses.

          Despite budget challenges, Smith told the council the University continues to have outstanding programs. "We are particularly proud of our Honors Program. This year's program brought in an additional 100 qualified students, and now has 294 students enrolled. The program provides additional opportunities for qualified students to learn and grow through honors classes, student-faculty research and conference participation. The program promotes leadership and civic engagement and offers participants added credential opportunities for their job search upon graduation."

          "On Nov. 12, 2009, I signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment stating that Slippery Rock University would help lead the region in reducing global emissions of greenhouse gases, starting with our own campus. Launched in 2007, the American  College and University Presidents' Climate Commitment is a network of signatory schools, representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. More than 660 institutions have signed the ACUPCC," he said. Meeting the commitment will be a challenge, but the University is already out front on many sustainability issues, he said.

          In his report, Smith cited a milestone in the fifth anniversary of the Regional Learning Alliance at Cranberry Woods, which opened in 2004. The project was conceived by SRU.

          The RLA was created to help provide western Pennsylvania businesses with workforce training facilities and remains a unique operation and the largest such cooperative in the nation. The RLA has served as a training facility for more than 500 companies, including service as the primary training facility for Westinghouse Electric Corp., H.J. Heinz Co., MSA, McKesson Automation Corp., Verizon Wireless, PPO Industries, MEDRAD Inc. and Siemens Water Technologies. Since its opening, the RLA has provided more than 1 million "people hours" of training.

          More than 150,000 students have used the RLA as part of programs offered by 12 academic partners.

          Trustees approved the University's 2009-2010 budget totaling $143,397,522. The total represents a 3.1 percent increase over the previous year's budget. Action on approving the budget was delayed due to the state legislature's delay in establishing the state budget, including allocations to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which provides funding to SRU.

           Council approved and presented commendation resolutions to Kimberly Greco, director of internal audit, and SRU's McLachlan Student Health Center staff.

           Greco was recognized for her distinguished service, advice and counsel to the administration related to the internal auditing processes. The resolution cited her for her proven abilities to analyze current internal practices and construct helpful strategies to improve efficiencies of fiscal operational activities in campus offices, departments and student organizations, and  for expending a substantial amount of  time providing expertise to the area of athletics to ensure compliance with NCAA reporting requirements."

           In a realignment of internal auditors, Greco is being moved to a new position within the audit operation at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education and will continue to handle internal audits at SRU and other western Pennsylvania PASSHE universities. 

          SRU's health center staff was cited for its dedication and caring nature while providing "exemplary care to the students of Slippery Rock University." 

          "The University has benefited from the MSHS team of professionals who have experienced a dramatic influx of traffic to the health center due to the arrival of H1N1 to the community. Thanks to preparedness by the staff and implementing strategies to keep the campus informed, we have experienced significantly less incidents of H1N1 carriers on campus in comparison to other educational facilities in the area," the resolution read, while also citing the staff for effectively and efficiently responding to the University community by administering a community meningitis alert and providing education and/or preventative treatment to hundreds of students affected by a student death from bacterial meningitis. 

          As part of its annual contribution program to fire departments providing fire protection and emergency services to the main campus and the McKeever Environmental Learning Center at Sandy Lake, administered by SRU, trustees agreed to provide $20,000 to the Slippery Rock Volunteer Fire Department to be shared with its rescue squad. Also approved was $1,000 each to the Sandy Lake Volunteer and the Stoneboro Volunteer fire departments. 

           SRU has contributed annually to the Slippery Rock department since 1976 when the Pennsylvania legislature enacted legislation allowing such payments. Support has been provided annually to Sandy Lake/Stoneboro since 1994.

          Trustees approved an alteration to SRU's Student Code of Conduct. The change involves those found guilty of furnishing alcohol to minors. First-time offenders found guilty face a minimum of deferred suspension from the University, a $200 hosting fine and may be required to provide 60 hours of community service. Second-time offenders face a minimum of a one-year suspension from the University up to a maximum of permanent dismissal. Previous policy required a minimum one-semester suspension to a maximum of two-year suspension from the University to first-time offenders; and second-time offenders faced a minimum two-years suspension to permanent dismissal.

          In routine items, trustees approved the contracts, fixed assets, and service and supply purchase orders reports as submitted.

           Council was informed of three instructional appointments and 23 support staff appointments, including 16 employees hired as part of the AmeriCorps grant funded program administered by the University's Institute for Community, Service-Learning and Nonprofit Leadership. 

          Trustees were informed of the retirement of Alison McNeal, 30-year professor of English planned for June, and Helen Forsythe Kirk, 36-year administrative assistant to the dean of the College of Humanities, Fine and Performing Arts, planned for Jan. 15.

           Hans Fellner, a 41-year professor of physics who retired in 2008, has been named a professor emeritus.


Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.

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