ILC opening no cause for celebration
Tuesday October 30, 2001
According to UA President Peter Likins, the university is in "pure celebration mode." Either President Likins has information contrary to what the rest of the campus is privy to, or he is guilty of a gross exaggeration.
Dr. Likins made this statement at the dedication ceremony on Friday morning for the Integrated Learning Center. The much-anticipated ILC has become a symbol for UA administrators' desire to raise the quality of UA education through construction projects. And it has also become a symbol for the inability of the UA to complete its buildings on schedule. The fact is, although the ILC has been dedicated, it is not finished. It's a lovely structure that, for now, only offers UA students a new place to sit.
The decision to dedicate the ILC on Parent's Weekend was transparent and misleading. UA officials have promised the community, the students and the parents a high-tech learning center for over a decade, and to keep up appearances, Likins ordered the cyclone fencing to be removed on Thursday.
He welcomed the parents of UA students to a shell of a project that was designed to improve freshman retention rates, and as it is, the ILC will have little or no effect on whether students decide to stay.
State-mandated budget cuts that will pare at least $13.8 million from the UA's budget threatened the opening of the ILC. Let's take a step back: the budget cuts threatened to delay an opening date that that was already more than three months later than it was scheduled. But it is open, and it is a victory - no matter how minor a victory it may be.
Although the ILC will open its doors in November for freshman advising, and in January for classes, it will not live up to its hype until the media center - the heart of the ILC that will allow teachers to store information from classes through use of high-tech equipment - is completed. And when that will open, no one knows. Likins has speculated on its completion as early as September, and as late as January of 2003.
The only thing that can be guaranteed is that the ILC's lecture halls and classrooms will accommodate classes in January. However, even that success is tarnished by the fact that the UA may not need the extra classrooms that it had planned for years ago. Because of the budget cuts, the UA will be forced to cut classes, making the need for more classrooms less than intense.
Rocio Quijada, acting as a representative of the freshman class said, at the dedication, "We take this building as a gift." A more accurate statement would have been: we take this building as an IOU. We take this building as an IOU for a state-of-the-art, multi-functional learning center that will positively affect the experience of freshmen at the UA - an IOU for a promise yet to be fulfilled.
There are many things to celebrate about the ILC. It's a remarkable structure, it's aesthetically pleasing, and it will make the skateboarders on campus ollie for joy. But it's not time for freshmen to pop open the Martinelli's quite yet - save it for when the ILC is completed, for when it is more than just snazzy subterranean classrooms.