A Renaissance In Delaware: As The New Century Nears, University Of Delaware (UD) Overcomes Aging Infrastructures

September 04, 1998

Web site with video clips: http://cleome.pr.udel.edu/renewal/rebirth.htm

Described in a recent New York Times article as an "instant classic," the University of Delaware's stately, new classroom building, Gore Hall, symbolizes UD's victory over infrastructures suffering from deferred maintenance.

The building is the latest of 11 new facilities UD managers have completed since 1990--while also conquering crumbling classrooms.

As organizations worldwide grapple with the growing problem of aging infrastructures--a $26 billion problem for the nation's higher-education institutions--UD will have completed its backlog of deferred maintenance problems by around the turn of the century, while simultaneously building 11 new facilities, boosting University-sponsored student scholarships by 227 percent to date, more than doubling private gifts and holding the lid on tuition increases, President David P. Roselle reports.

The key, Roselle and Executive Vice President David E. Hollowell say, was a thoughtful reallocation of resources, coupled with new technologies for increasing efficiency while eliminating mountains of repetitive paperwork. UD expects to overcome $221.1 million worth of deferred maintenance by 1999--with only 18 percent of the total pricetag covered by state funds.

How? By annually allocating 2 percent of the estimated $1 billion replacement value of property assets to cover renovations, redirecting year-end surpluses, capitalizing upon the private gifts from friends of the University and implementing technologies that have allowed academic budgets to grow approximately three times faster than administrative budgets, Roselle reports.

During the same period, the University will have completed nearly $156.3 million worth of major, new construction projects, with 72 percent of the total price covered by non-state funds, Hollowell says. The $17.5 million cost of Gore Hall, for example, was paid in full by UD patrons Robert W. Gore, a 1959 UD graduate and president of W.L. Gore & Associates, makers of GORE-TEX; his wife, Sarah I. Gore, a 1976 UD graduate; and his mother, Genevieve W. Gore.

"By the year 2000," Roselle notes, "UD will have spent nearly $400 million on renovations and refurbishments of existing facilities as well as new buildings, and the University raised 78 percent of the funds required to achieve these improvements, or $293.4 million, through the strategic reallocation of resources and from private sources. We look to the upcoming refurbishment of Wolf Hall and the north wing of Brown Lab, and the addition to P.S. duPont Hall as signaling the beginning of an era of scheduled, rather than deferred, maintenance."

Richard L. Walter, director of facilities management, notes that certain deferred maintenance problems still must be addressed at UD. But, he adds, all most serious and most obvious problems will be corrected by shortly after the millennium. "We're winning this battle, at a time when so many other universities, corporations and government agencies are losing," says Walter, noting a 1996 reaccreditation report from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education Review Board, which commended UD's successful renovation efforts.

A Teaching and Technology University

With its high-tech classrooms providing Delaware faculty members with fingertip control for displaying video images and computer-based information and for controlling the classroom lighting, Gore Hall and other classrooms throughout the campus epitomize the startling metamorphosis of UD's living and learning environment.

A classic Georgian facility, Gore Hall was dedicated April 25 this year and reflects UD's efforts to marry the latest technologies with "best practices" in the classroom, notes George W. Watson, an associate professor of physics and a leader within the University's new Institute for Transforming Undergraduate Education (ITUE). Watson--whose advocacy of active-learning techniques has been recognized nationally by competing institutions and by the National Science Foundation--uses Gore Hall's Internet connections to supplement hands-on activities. To illustrate the mechanics of photoconductivity, for instance, Watson displays a web-based animation of photocopier functions.

Featuring a three-story central atrium with a skylight and 25 state-of-the-art classrooms, Gore Hall is just one of 11 new facilities completed at UD since 1990. Other new UD facilities include, for example, the $26 million Trabant University Center and parking garage; a $2.5 million Downtown Center in Wilmington, Del., to meet the needs of continuing education and professional development students; another $2 million structure to serve residents of southern Delaware's Kent County; a $3.0 million complex to house the departments of History and Anthropology, and the $6.0 million Arsht Hall Each of these projects and Gore Hall were totally paid for by funds raised by the University, a total of $57 million, Roselle reports. Another five new buildings, costing $87 million, were financed by a combination of University-generated and state funds.

In addition to these projects, $10 million already has been raised toward completion of a $20 million addition to P.S. duPont Hall for the College of Engineering, to be completed after the turn of the century.

UD's bright, high-tech facilities represent a dramatic departure from the "dingy, crumbling classrooms" Hollowell remembers touring shortly after his arrival in 1988. With only a "few hundred-thousand dollars per year" budgeted for renovations, Hollowell says, UD administrators were deferring essential fix-it jobs. Asbestos dropped from ceiling tiles, paint was stained and peeling off classroom walls and air-conditioning systems often consisted of many inefficient window units.

Then, in 1990, Hollowell and the late Tom Vacha, who was president-elect of the Association of Higher Education Facilities Officers when he died last year, alerted newly hired President Roselle and the UD Board of Trustees to the alarming campus-wide problem of deferred maintenance. Roselle sought and received Board approval to make renovations and repairs a high University priority.

Pursuing the Paperless Campus

Roselle lost no time in correcting $41 million worth of UD's most pressing structural problems-from gaping holes in classroom ceilings to cracking support columns and leaking water pipes. He also supported sweeping improvements to UD's computing network, a program that had been launched earlier by and supported by Susan J. Foster, now vice president for information technologies.

Upgrading UD's computing capabilities to improve operational efficiency proved no easy task, however. As recently as the mid-1980s, UD still was dependent on an antiquated computers. Today, UD's campus-wide network offers a backbone bandwidth capable of processing one billion bits of information per second (bps), delivering 10 million bps to desktops and residence hall rooms.

Clearly, Roselle reports, new technologies enabled improvements in the cost and quality of administrative processes. But they also have opened the door to a host of exciting options for instruction, research and outreach, while making life simpler for students, faculty and staff. To drop or add courses, obtain grade transcripts or complete other routine tasks, for example, current UD students simply dial a touch-tone telephone system, visit by a centralized `one-stop shopping' Student Services Center, or log onto web-connected computers from any office, classroom or student space on campus. Roselle says he is proud of the "good efforts of the many members of the faculty and staff who have worked so enthusiastically, so willingly and so intelligently to assist in the transformation of the University of Delaware."

Reallocating Resources

Since 1990, Hollowell says, the amount spent annually on fix-it jobs has increased to between $20 and $30 million. Each year, he explains, UD administrators earmark 2 percent of the total replacement value of all UD property to pay for renovations. And remaining year-end funds are reallocated for repairs and refurbishment of existing structures. If the University experiences a cool summer, for instance, money not spent on air-conditioning is redirected to pay for enhancements and repairs to the centralized heating and cooling systems.

Throughout UD's transformation, improved facilities and new technologies were pursued not for their own sake, Roselle emphasizes, but as a tactic whereby it would be possible to broaden educational opportunities, while also supporting leaner, more efficient operations. At UD, he says, enhancements must support the four institutional goals set forth in 1990 to ensure:As a measure of the success of the reallocation process, it is noted that, between fiscal year 1990 and fiscal year 1997, academic budgets grew by 45 percent while administrative budgets grew by 16 percent.

"Decaying infrastructures are a widespread problem at colleges and universities," Roselle notes. "When dollars are scarce, it's easy to say, `We can defer this.' At Delaware, we have successfully avoided falling into that trap, thanks to a reallocation strategy that involves technology-enhanced improvements and creative fund raising. In this way, we are preserving UD's physical infrastructure as a legacy for future generations, while also providing the best possible environment for current students, faculty and staff."
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