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By Jennifer M. Fitzenberger
Arizona Daily Wildcat
December 5, 1997

Regents approve new UA heart center

TEMPE - The Arizona Board of Regents gave the UA initial approval yesterday to construct a three-story addition to the College of Medicine for the University Heart Center.

The $9.7 million project, which would provide the center with a permanent University of Arizona home, would consolidate research activities and provide space for program growth.

"They (UHC) have reached a high enough quality nationally to win gift money," said UA President Peter Likins about the privately-funded project. "It shows that excellence is being rewarded."

James Dalen, UA health sciences vice president for medicine administration, said the center's work with organ transplants is the one of the best in the world. It's cardiovascular unit is among the top 10 in the United States, he said.

Dalen said donors have already pledged $8 million for the new heart center, $2 million of which was from a single donor.

He would not reveal the donor's identity, but said the pledge is contingent upon the project being completed by December 2001. The UA plans to bring the project back to the regents for conceptual approval in February.

Regent John Munger congratulated the UA for its fund-raising efforts. He said when he was appointed to the board in 1992, building construction was solely funded by academic bonding and state funds.

"I want to congratulate you on that (accomplishment)," Munger said.

Likins said he was impressed that so much private money has been raised for a state-owned building.

"They give us money for the fact of research enterprise," he said. "Benefactors tend to put money into world-class projects."

The three-floor College of Medicine, which was designed in 1965, was originally built to hold three more floors.

Regent Judy Gignac was concerned the construction would disrupt work being done in the rest of the building.

"If the building falls apart, I won't come back," Joel Valdez, senior vice president for business affairs, said with a laugh.

"But it was designed for three extra floors," he added.

Regent President Rudy Campbell said he was troubled about possible parking, traffic, flood and helicopter-noise problems resulting from the construction.

Dalen said there will be no significant increase in traffic around the center and helicopter noise will be minimal. Helicopters are no longer allowed to take off from University Medical Center, he said.

The board originally granted project initiation and conceptual approval for the heart center in 1989, but the proposed $16 million cost exceeded funding capabilities.

Programs that may be moved to the new facility include molecular biology, congestive heart failure and vascular biology.

In other business:

Board members, who discussed future items that may be introduced during the 1998 session of the state Legislature, said they support a proposal for the instruction of phonics in public grade schools and that it should be taught to future teachers at the state's education colleges.

"I have a wonderful wife who recently got her teaching degree through the system," said Regent Kurt Davis. "She was not taught in phonics and it has been difficult for her. To not have it as a core part of a curriculum is a mistake."

Regents also discussed a proposal to remove university exemption from state whistle-blower laws. The UA's current policy protects employees from reprisal for disclosing the misdeeds of their supervisors.

Gignac said she is not confident that Arizona's three universities, UA, Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University, correctly follow whistle-blower procedures.

"I need a little bit of convincing right now," she said.

Likins said he is impressed with how the UA handles such issues.

"The University of Arizona has done a magnificent job," he said. "How can we persuade you that what we are doing is right?"

Tomorrow at the meeting:

Because of the pending expansion of the College of Law, the UA will ask the board for permission to build a new Chi Omega sorority house, which is currently located adjacent to the law college. UA officials want to buy property on the southeast corner of East First Street and North Highland Avenue for the new house.

The existing house is located at North Mountain and East Helen streets.

The UA and ASU law colleges will request a $750 tuition increase to live up to new national standards, provide increased library services and help subsidize law student financial assistance programs.

Christine Thompson, Associated Students Association executive director, told the board today she is against the increase.

"Tuition is set in the spring," she said. "This item creates a dangerous precedent."

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