MTSU Attempts to Update Aging Buildings Despite Significant Budget Cuts

Story by Brendon Donoho / Contributing Writer

According to a recent Facility Services report, 14 buildings, including EZEL and MGB, received a grade of “D” on the Middle Tennessee State University’s own grading system while another six buildings, including BDA, KOM and Peck Hall, received a “C.”

KOM building on MTSU Campus.

“It’s really an issue of the allocations coming from the state house in Tennessee. A lot of our allocations have been curtailed and when they do that, that means that the maintenance in the buildings has to be deferred,” said Dr. Kari Neely, member of the MTSU Faculty Senate and chair of the Ad Hoc Committee of MTSU’s Carbon Footprint.

“I don’t think it’s that they’re bad guys over at Facility Services,”  she continued, “it’s just that they don’t have the money.”

Tennessee Governor Bill Lee’s budget allocated only $4.7 million to MTSU’s Facility Services Department for repairs on the school for the 2019-20 school year.

Peck Hall on MTSU campus.

This is a 47 percent reduction from the budget’s peak of $8.9 million in the 2017-18 year and significantly lower than the roughly $10 million which had been recommended by the Tennessee Higher Education Committee, with the cuts halting many planned repairs on the KOM building this year.

Joe Whitefield, Assistant Vice President of Facility Services, presented plans to the Board of Trustees in May of last year to replace several roofs across the campus, update the storm drainage system and replace the ventilation system in the KOM.

The cuts will make an already difficult situation of upkeep even harder.

The KOM is a central issue for school maintenance projects as the building’s ventilation system is nearly a decade out of date, which leads to many concerns involving carbon monoxide levels in the building, leading some faculty members to complain of health concerns.

Neely works in the BDA, which faces many issues as well. “There are wasps in the walls, and we’ve had faculty members who are allergic…so they’ve had to be relocated to other buildings.”

BDA building on MTSU campus.

“It’s much easier to get your representatives to vote for a shiny new building than repairs,” said Neely.

Problems like these persist in schools across the state and even across the nation. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Tennessee has cut funding for higher education by 13.9 percent since 2008, which is actually on the lower end of state cuts around the country.

With MTSU’s continuing growth, many of the problems of rundown, older buildings could be exacerbated, and some of them can’t be ignored.

Many of the older buildings on campus use asbestos tiles which, once worn down, could expose students and teachers to the dangerous material and would require immediate attention.

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