The SRU Council of Trustees voted to move forward with a proposed plan for the renovations of Miller Auditorium and East and West Gym during their regular meeting held Friday.
The $22.9 million construction plan for the renovations of Miller Auditorium and East and West Gym was developed after the original renovation, planned to begin in August, were reconsidered by the council when they decided to find a new plan that would be most cost-effective.
Several students, as well as professors of the Theatre and Dance Departments spoke out against the reoccurring issue of whether or not renovations of Miller Auditorium and East and West Gym will take place.
Samantha Wesler, a senior dance major expressed to the council how disappointing it is to not have a dance space to call home. According to Wesler, most of her dance practices run late, which means she has to walk from studio to studio in the dark, which can result in a safety issue.
“I transferred here from Ohio State University because I heard that Slippery Rock has a great dance program. Upon transferring here, I didn’t know that we had no signature place to perform,” Wesler said. “I feel as though I’ve been let down by the university in a sense because I feel like we, as dancers, should at least have a place to rehearse without walking from studio to studio in the dark, which can be dangerous. In the winter, we’re walking from studio to studio in the freezing cold after we’re all sweaty, which could also cause some health issues.”
Wesler also added that SRU dancers as a whole can’t expand their talents because they feel that they are lacking in resources.
Nora Ambrosio, professor of dance, also noted to the Council that there are many health and safety issues that go along with not having an appropriate dance space.
“We’re performing in spaces that are not meant for dance. Our dance program here at SRU is ranked second in Pennsylvania and 15 in the United States, but we are performing our shows at BC3 [Butler County Community College],” Ambrosio said. “We shouldn’t be doing this. I ask again, please reconsider the proposed plan of the renovations of East and West Gym.”
Students from the Theatre Department also suggested that the council reconsider the renovations of the Miller Auditorium.
“I’ve been offered jobs at theaters in Pittsburgh and close to my hometown, but I feel as though it wouldn’t be right to take a job right now, not because I don’t know what I’m doing, but because of the lack of resources that I have here at Slippery Rock,” Samantha Kuchta, senior theatre major, said. “I’ve only been in a real theater space for one year out of my four years here, which results in not having a job because I lack the experience of not knowing a real theatre space. If we had Miller back, we would have those resources that we need to move forward in our careers.”
After a deliberation between the council and Slippery Rock University President Cheryl Norton, the council voted to approve the proposal for the renovations of Miller Auditorium and East and West Gym.
Tears of joy from the Dance and Theatre Departments and Norton flooded the room.
Norton also cited some of the latest recognitions that Slippery Rock University have been given. Some of the recognitions include enrollment increases and Boozel and Weisenfluh Dining Hall Centers being two of the best dining halls among many in the United States.
“We are doing excellent as a university. Our enrollment is up, our budget isn’t wavering and our community is better than ever,” Norton said. “Our professors are doing an amazing job at making sure that our students get the rock solid education that they deserve. One of the main things we value as a university is sustainability and the sense of a great community and I feel as though we are accomplishing that.”
Student Government Association President Katie Hill spoke about some of the goals that SGA are in the process of achieving. Diversity, sustainability, making sure the library hours meet the student’s needs and an increase in student awareness and involvement were just a few of the several goals that Hill mentioned.
During public comments, Mary Jo White, vice chair of the council, stated that by the budget doing well, leaving more opportunities for students.
“Our budget is doing pretty good. I looked at our budget last year and all the fees and money that we’ve used for certain projects and I have to say that our budget this year is about the same,” White said. “We were in pretty good shape last year, so we will also be in pretty good shape this year. A better budget will lead to more scholarship and grant opportunities for students to get involved in.”
Suzanne Williamson, university legal counsel of PASSHE, was recognized for her service to the council. Williamson provided legal advice to the Council and also helped with some of the more tougher issues that the council held. Thomas Breth, chair of the council presented Williamson with a plaque and also a framed Slippery Rock display.
The next meeting of the Council of Trustees will take place Dec. 5 in room 321 of The Robert M. Smith Student Center.