Student Commons Project Further Delayed By Insufficient Funds

November 15, 2016

By Jocelyn Cano

In 2002, the Dominican University Board of Trustees approved a vision statement that included the construction of a new student commons. Fourteen years later and construction has yet to begin, leaving students and faculty asking themselves if the project will ever take off.

“The original name for the project was the Heart of Campus,” Project Manager Dawn Morse said. “It’s going to be a student hub.”

In the plan, Dominican set apart a piece of land, most commonly known as the private parking lot north of Mazzuchelli Hall, as the desired construction spot for the two-story building.

The building will be connected to the kitchen and dining area in Lewis Hall, which will result in additional renovations. The first part of these renovations, adding air conditioning to both rooms, has been completed this past summer.

The first floor of the new student commons will be an extension of the dining and kitchen area and the second will house university ministry, academic enrichment, student involvement and common areas for students.

“It is very intentionally designed to be where a lot of the support services are very conveniently located for students,” Amy McCormack senior vice president for finance and administration said.

Jonathan Sass, student government president, said, “My thoughts on the student commons are that it will be an integral part in bringing together many students of many backgrounds and lifestyles into one area.”

But the question remains, why has Dominican let 14 years pass without even starting construction? The answer: finances.

“We can’t hit ground until we have at least 70 percent of the funding,” Morse said.

According to McCormack, the project will cost a total of $16.5 million and Dominican has only gathered $3.5 million.

“Originally, we were hoping to break ground in the spring,” McCormack said. “We might be six months to a year late in doing that. Once we start, it’s a 15-month project.”

Dan Bulow, director of physical plant, said, “We get money from private donors, funding, and state grants.”

 The Powerful Promise Campaign has given faculty and staff the chance to help students raise money for MAP grants, study abroad and scholarships in the past.

“The Powerful Promise Campaign was suppose to assist with finding a donor willing to assist in raising these funds,” Sass said.

Fortunately for students, it seems that funding for this project will not be coming out of their yearly tuition. Once Dominican gets close to meeting its goal, the possibility of using some of its operating dollars, or savings, will be brought up to ensure that the construction gets completed.

“Our current plan isn’t to fund the construction with student tuition,” McCormack said. “But whether we have to look at additional expenses, the hope is that we keep our residence halls full because the dining fees help to support the ongoing expenses.”

Sass said, “I am hopeful, in the theoretical approach to its creation, that this new addition will bring our student body closer and create an area for all walks of life to freely communicate and work together.”