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 SRU Trustees Vote Approval for Student-initiated $43.7 Million Student Union 




Contact: K.E. Schwab  -- 724-738-2199;  e-mail:


     SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. – A student-led initiative calling for the construction of a new $43.7 million, 122,500-square-foot Student Union met with the approval of the Slippery Rock University Council of Trustees today which authorized a resolution permitting implementation of a loan agreement to finance the project.

     Council also authorized a $600,000 addition to the Russell Wright Alumni House proposed and funded by the SRU Alumni Association and recommended a one-year contract extension for President Robert Smith.

     The call for a new Student Union was mounted by SRU’s Student Government Association with a campuswide student vote giving four-to-one approval to the plan last fall. The facility will serve the current 8,100 student compliment and expected future growth while replacing the facility, built in 1970 when the student population was 3,000. When all formal approvals are obtained it is expected construction would begin in 2008.

     While architect plans for the new Student Union are not yet on the drawing board, the building is expected to include a 250-seat, stadium-style movie theater, ballroom and multi-purpose meeting rooms area, expanded space for student clubs and organizations, five student lounges, a game room and staff offices. It will also house the SGA Bookstore and retail shops. More than 14,850-square-foot has been designated for foodservice, including a foodcourt, Rocky’s dining area and an atrium serving area. A convenience store and coffeehouse would be included.

     “Essentially, our Student Union is the student’s living room on campus,” said President Smith in explaining the project. “This is a facility that nearly 1,500 students and visitors use on a daily basis. It is a place to meet, to attend meetings, study, socialize, hold organizational activities and eat. It is also the focal point for lectures, campus programs, seminars, workshops and concerts. Students living on campus use it as an adjunct to their residence hall room, and those who commute use it as a place to spend time between classes during the day. This new facility will be another prime drawing point for students considering attending Slippery Rock University similar to our new residence halls and our new Advanced Science and Technology Hall.”

      The building is planned for space occupied by Dodds and Bard residence halls, which will be demolished. The facility will be adjacent the proposed Performing Arts Center with an intervening outdoor amphitheater.

     The new union plan must next be approved by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors. SRU is one of the 14 PASSHE universities governed by the board. The building would be paid for through an increase in the University Union Fee currently assessed all SRU students with the debt service repayment plan set by PASSHE. The state system requires all such unions to be self-supporting auxiliary enterprises.

     In a second building-related move, trustees also approved a proposed 2,300-square-foot expansion of the Russell Wright Alumni House which will provide additional space for a conference room and support areas. Funding for the $600,000 addition has been raised by the SRU Alumni Association. Final fund-raising efforts are under way and construction could begin in early-2007.

     Michael Saraka, Office of Alumni Affairs director, says, “We have a great facility, but with all of the activities under way in our building, we have simply outgrown the available space. This new addition will benefit both the association’s projects as well as the university, which makes extensive use of our facility. Alumni visit on a daily basis, and all are impressed with their ‘alumni home.’ I think they will be even more impressed in visits to the facility for events, meetings, socials and community use serving SRU’s goals as the building continues to grow.”

     Trustees voted to recommend to the state system that President Smith’s contract be extended for an additional year, not to exceed the maximum term allowed by board policy. Trustee Robert Taylor, Esq., who served on the president’s April evaluation committee, reported high praise from the campus and community for Smith’s leadership, pointing out, “He is clearly the right man for Slippery Rock University; and the right man to continue the leadership of the university.” Other trustees also praised Smith’s leadership and accomplishments at SRU.

          As part of his formal report, Smith thanked trustees for their support, and said, “As we approach the end of the current fiscal year, we stand in solid financial and academic condition.” He noted the year is expected to end with the budget balanced. However, he pointed out extensive work in reducing next year’s projected shortfall has been under way with final decisions dependent on the final budget produced by the Pennsylvania legislature. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has requested a 6 percent appropriations increase saying system university tuition will be dependent on the legislature’s final budget decision.

     In other areas, the Smith pointed out, “In the last three months, SRU has had five accreditation or program review visitations by outside evaluators. Accreditation is particularly important as a confirmation to the public that our programs meet the highest rigorous standards of their respected national organizations within the discipline.”

     Programs included were initial accreditation for theater as well as reaccreditations for the Athletic Training Program, and Social Work Program. In addition, the bachelor of science in safety and environmental management became one of only three programs in the U.S. recognized by the Institute for Safety and Health Management and the SRU dance program has been recommended for reaccreditation. Recertification of all SRU education programs by the Pennsylvania Department of Education is expected shortly.

     The president outlined a number of student and faculty honors recently received, including those from the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival’s Region II and the National Association of Teachers of Singing Eastern Regional competitions. He said the SRU Jazz Ensemble, led by Dr. Stephen Hawk, is the first Pennsylvania college band invited to perform at the Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland, adding the group will also play at the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam as part of its July travel. He told trustees a three-member student team from the math department has earned a meritorious rating at the International Mathematical Contest in Modeling and the SRU finance team had taken third place in the national Ameriprise Planning Invitational Finals.

     In formal action, trustees approved providing designated rights-of-way along the university’s southern property line along Kiester Road and on university property along both sides of Harmony Road, the eastern edge of campus, to the Slippery Rock Township board of supervisors for the purpose of widening the roadway and for installation of underground utilities as may be necessary. The action had been requested by the supervisors.

     Trustees voted to accept the nominating committee’s recommended slate of officers, elevating Suzanne Vessella from vice chair to chair as part of the annual reorganization. Vessella has served the public for more than 18 years with the Pennsylvania Department of the Auditor General’s Office. She was named an SRU trustee in 2003 and elected vice chair a year ago. She replaces SRU graduate and two-term chair Dr. Dennis Murray, superintendent of the Altoona Area School District for the past 21 years, who has been an SRU trustee since 1997. Taylor, chair and chief executive officer of Cameron Companies, LLC., was named vice chair, and Grace Hawkins, a retired Seneca Valley and Steubenville, Ohio, school teacher, was named secretary.

     As a way of helping reduce the number of on-campus parking violations, trustees agreed a plan that will increase parking violation fines on university tickets written by SRU Police. A motion to increase the Undergraduate Application Fee from $25 to $30 for those seeking entrance beginning in January 2007 was approved.

     In routine items council approved submitted fixed asset reports, service and supply purchase order reports and the annual facilities inspection report.     Trustees were informed of 17 instructional appointments along with various other non-faculty positions as well as the naming of Dr. Constance Foley as vice president of student life (details announced earlier and available at Foley begins work July 1.

     Dr. Robert Watson, retired vice president for student life, was named an administrator emeritus. He retired in March after 34 years service to the university. Retirements of Dr. Robert Hutchings, 37-year professor of chemistry and physics, and Dr. John Nichols, 40-year professor of history, were also announced.

     Council’s next meeting was set for 1:30 p.m. Sept. 8 in Old Main on the SRU campus.        PN, PGN, WPN, PR, S



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