Dear Members of the Campus Community...
Arizona Summer Wildcat
UA President Peter Likins
As I welcome you back to this academic year, your most striking initial impression is probably that you have walked into a construction zone.
That impression will become more pronounced as time goes on. It's been more than a decade since there was this much building on the campus.
I am not able to minimize the noise and inconvenience you will experience this year, and next. I do want to tell you that the heart of this University is undergoing a transformation that will change the character of students' experience here.
The Integrated Learning Center is the building that starts with a gigantic excavation in the Mall. It is one of the most exciting buildings we will build on this campus because the design of the building is intended to actually change the behavior of students. Specifically, the ILC is intended to turn freshmen into sophomores, and increase our retention rate.
How can a building do that? Vice President for Undergraduate Education Mike Gottfredson has proposed a mix of classrooms that includes large auditoriums equipped with the technology of the future, to small discussion rooms. It has tutoring and advising available right outside the classroom door, and faculty have offices next to their classrooms. In addition, a computer commons will be open 24 hours a day. Because all freshmen will take a class or two a day in this building, they are able to make friends more easily. It will provide first-year students with a strong, flexible support system. If they become discouraged or overwhelmed, the very design of the building directs them to places where they can get help.
The first eight or 10 weeks of construction will be the hardest to get through. Excavating the giant hole where the ILC will be built will mean trucks leaving campus every few minutes. It will only seem like an eternity; actually, the excavation will be over long before Thanksgiving, if all goes well. The rest of the construction should be less intrusive because it takes place mostly below ground. When the ILC is complete, the Mall will be restored to its current condition except that there will be a little more grass than there is now and a roadway that has been transformed into a friendly pedestrian and bicycle experience.
Then, there is the new Student Union/Bookstore; a building that also will become the heartbeat of the campus. Our current Union has grown awkwardly over the years. It is now a series of three lumpish buildings, with innumerable leaks, rusting pipes, and structural problems. It would have taken $14 million dollars in asbestos abatement and fire code accommodations just to keep the old Union open.
I won't even try to describe the new Union. It's spectacular! I don't think there will be another Union/Bookstore in the country that can match it. With UA alumni and students on the design-build team, the sensitivity to historical detail and futuristic use of the space is unique and powerful.
The most amazing part is that the design team has come up with a plan that will allow us to keep the Union and Bookstore open during the entire construction period. During Phase I, you'll buy your books and have your meals where you always have while they build a new food service area on the east side and a new bookstore on the west, to be completed in 2001.
Just about the same time, Steward Observatory will begin work on a much needed addition. That work will close the southbound lane of traffic on Cherry Ave. from Second Street to the Mall. The sidewalk on the west side of Cherry will be closed also.
Meantime, you'll wind your way to classes and meetings around three construction sites and construction companies moving trucks on and off campus during the day and far into the evening. It won't be fun, but it will be well worth the inconvenience in the end.
So many people have been involved in creating and implementing the vision for this building that Vice President for Campus Life Saunie Taylor says, "It takes a village to raise the Union."
If you have questions or need information during the construction period, you can call the construction hotline, 621-NEWU, or log on to the construction web site at uaconstruction.opi.arizona.edu, or, check the Arizona Daily Wildcat for regular reports.
Young people have a phrase they use for difficulties that can't be helped.
"Deal with it," they say. We may have to collectively deal with much more noise, dirt and disruption this year than we ever anticipated, but I have faith that we have the vision to see past the dust, and into the future.