- Renovations continue throughout the year
| Tyler Koester reporter |
The summer of 2014 marked a time of much construction and activity on campus with five projects representing more than $60 million of work in progress, simultaneously. With summer break at a close and the beginning of fall classes, here is an update on campus construction projects.
Indoor Track Stadium
Paul Stewart, director of facilities planning, says construction on this “much anticipated” building is in the final stages of completion. Installment of underground plumbing and metal paneling of the exterior south side of the building is under way.
The stadium is expected to be complete next spring.
Overman Student Center
The student center is undergoing a variety of changes both inside and out. Passersby’s can view the development of an outdoor terrace while inside the building; a 25 percent expansion of space is in progress.
Students and faculty members can expect the fence currently set up around the site to move again to accommodate the construction as it proceeds.
Stewart says this has been a particularly tricky project.
“It is a phased project to permit some areas to remain open for students during construction,” he said.
Overman is scheduled to be finished by next summer.
The features of this $33 million center include two auditoriums; one capable of seating an audience of 1,100 and a smaller auditorium, north of the larger, able to seat 250 people.
Performance halls and other indoor touch-ups are in progress, with completion set for this fall.
The final building under yellow tape this semester, Heckert-Wells, is being renovated with a new HVAC system and is set to be completed by Friday, Aug. 29.
Stewart says despite the delays and inconvenience some students may face with so much construction, the projects will significantly improve the campus amenities.
“In my own mind, I anticipate good things on the horizon,” he said. “If academics are growing, facilities have to respond.”
- Student gets help at new campus home
| Marcus Clem reporter |
It was a circus out there.
That’s at least what can be gathered if one follows the Saturday, Aug. 16, theme of getting into the residence halls for roughly 1,500 students.
The theme was just to keep the whole idea of starting a new year, or maybe a new life, on-campus fun for both residents and the students who are charged with their care as resident assistants.
“It helps some people relax a lot,” said Michelle Smith, junior in nursing, who is now living in the Crimson Commons residence hall and volunteered to help other on-campus students move in.
That’s what Ashvin “Ash” Sahni, area coordinator, also has in mind, as new on-campus residents start to form their own community.
“Our students come from different backgrounds, high schools and different-sized towns,” he said. “Our RAs this year will be able to be well-rounded and help students with a successful transition. That goes for academics, making friends, getting involved on campus and finding their niche here.”
For Jonah Hirschfeld, life in the dorms is set to be a fun experience, but the big prize is finally being able to live away from home.
“I’m a little bit nervous, yeah, but excited,” he said. “Just being away from home is something to look forward to. I came here on a visit and just loved the campus. It seemed like the right place to go.”
As he is every year, university President Steve Scott was on hand to help students move in following a conference of higher-education leaders at the University of Arkansas.
This year, he was able to talk with families moving into the freshly remodeled section of Nation Hall, a $5 million project that was completed over the summer.
That marks the penultimate on-campus housing project out of a huge slate of construction that has taken place in the last several years. The remainder of Nation and all Mitchell Hall’s upcoming facelift will represent the completion of renovations in summer 2015.
“It’s great to get our students moved in to this beautiful, freshly renovated space,” Scott said.
- Mum’s the word
Students speculate about project
| Audrey Dighans |
Of late, Pitt State seems to have become the construction industry’s favorite playground and Gorilla Village is no exception.
Students on their way to the Kansas Technology Center or perhaps McPherson Hall will find it hard to miss the newest construction zone to the PSU campus. Located directly behind Carnie Smith Stadium, next to the entrance of Gorilla Village, cutting off the bike path and taking out a row of parking spaces is … a secret.
“What’s taking place on the east side of the stadium is a very exciting project initiated by a donor,” said Steve Scott, university president.
Scott says the university is working to create a little mystery and intrigue surrounding the project, thus the secrecy.
“We plan to reveal the project on Homecoming,” Scott said. “ It promises to make this year’s celebration even more special than usual.”
The project has been contracted to Home Center Construction, a local company. HCC had no comment on the project.
But students came up with their own guesses on the mystery project.
Dylan McCollar, junior in nursing, says it looks like some sort of art piece.
“It’s hard to tell right now,” he said.
With all the secrecy, there is little to do until the project, which is also 100 percent privately funded, is complete and unveiled Saturday, Oct. 11.
“Homecoming is always a special game for our campus and community,” said Chris Kelly, associate vice president of university marketing and communication. “This year’s game will be one you won’t want to miss.”
Until then, students will have to speculate among themselves as to what exactly is being built smack dab in tailgate zone.
“If I could choose what was being built, I’d like to see a neat building where they have food vendors,” McCollar said. “They could have a different vendor for every game.”
Chandler Drollinger, freshman in manufacturing and engineering, also had a guess.
“It might be something new to add to the football team’s tradition of walking from the Weede to the stadium before games,” he said. “Something to add a little more flair.”
Scott added that at Pittsburg State, the university has extraordinary supporters who regularly step up to help improve the campus, enhancing what the university is able to do.
“This is a great example of that,” Scott said.
Kelly did let on to one aspect of the project.
“One of the nice features of this project is the addition of personalized pavers,” he said.
The pavers will be installed within the Gorilla Walk pathway.
Kelly says he believes the pavers will be popular among fans and alumni.
“We’ll be releasing more details about the pavers in the coming weeks,” he said.
- Fort Scott college leader pushed out
Faculty president cites association vote of no confidence
| Marcus Clem reporter |
Fort Scott Community College has a longstanding partnership with Pittsburg State, but disagreements over talks last year to forge a merger between the two schools played a role in FSCC’s recent leadership change.
On July 30, Clayton Tatro, FSCC president, reached an agreement with the college’s Board of Trustees to vacate his office.
The agreement came shortly after Tatro received a vote of no confidence from the Fort Scott College Association of Professional Employees (FSCAPE), which represents the college’s faculty.
Any specific incidents that provoked the change are being kept private and Tatro declined to comment for this story.
Steve Scott, university president, offered several comments on the matter, saying he anticipates that Pitt State will continue to work “in a very positive way” with FSCC.
“When I heard the news that Dr. Tatro was stepping down, I felt bad for him,” Scott said. “While he probably had some missteps along the way, as we discussed the possibility of merging the two institutions, I thought his motives were good.
“Fundamentally, he wanted to see FSCC’s future be more secure and, to him, that meant finding a larger partner. That partner could assist with resources and provide greater stability over the long term.”
Pitt State connection
Elie Riachi, FSCAPE president and Fort Scott professor of physical science, said in July that one issue has been what he perceived to be a lack of proper information about fall 2013’s meetings involving Scott and Tatro.
“I do not know if that had anything to do with the vote of no confidence,” Riachi said. “It was not made clear to us, the details of that. We didn’t get the whole picture. We didn’t know if this was a merger, what classes will be taught there, what here. Nothing. So, it may have played a little role.”
Scott says that he wasn’t involved with the sharing of information on the matter to Fort Scott employees.
“Whatever was or wasn’t shared on the FSCC campus would not have been up to me, nor do I have any insights as to how that worked or didn’t,” he said. “Clearly, the faculty were unhappy, and that’s something that should be taken very seriously.
“Although I don’t think community college faculty would be poorly served by a merger – in fact, I think they would have some immediate gains – I do understand the trepidation with which they would view the talks.”
In general, Riachi said, poor working relations between Tatro and the faculty drove FSCAPE members to their decision.
“I guess we pretty much tried to keep it capped,” Riachi said. “But things became unbearable at a certain point. There was a very strong push within the faculty to do this and that’s how we got the vote.
“There were many incidents. My phone started to ring off the hook. People said, ‘We need to do this. We need to do this now.’ I said, ‘OK, I’m on board.’”
The Pitt State-FSCC talks ended in October 2013 after a unanimous vote by the trustees. This did not affect current agreements between the two, such as free transfer of credit hours or on-campus residency options for FSCC students.
Scott says the idea he was working on with Tatro is similar to a merger plan approved by Dodge City Community College on June 24 with Fort Hays State University.
“It’s worth stating again that Pittsburg State was disappointed the talks with FSCC were ended by the board,” Scott said. “I was hopeful our efforts would produce a new model for postsecondary governance in Kansas, one that could be replicated by other institutions.”
Fort Scott is currently led by Dick Hedges, who served as college president for two separate terms in the past, and left his seat on the Board of Trustees to become interim president.
Jason Hogue, FSCC director of public relations, said in July that Hedges is expected to serve as a caretaker and that he expects a candidate to replace Tatro permanently after a nine to 12-month search.
“We could get lucky, though,” Hogue said, on the possibility of an ideal candidate appearing sooner.
He went on to express confidence in Hedges.
“There’s a building on campus named after him if you want to get an idea of his relationship with us,” Hogue said.
Scott says that he anticipates future talks about closer ties with FSCC.
“I’d posit that we are seeing the beginning of these conversations,” he said. “Pittsburg State will remain open to examining other partnerships and how they might benefit the students of the region as well as Pittsburg State’s students.”
- President, KOAM news anchor respond to ALS challenge
Steve Scott, university president, and KOAM News Anchor Tawnya Bach took the ice bucket challenge on Tuesday, August 19.
- Bus service hits funding speed bump
By: Tyler Koester
Students who are frequent riders of the PACT bus can expect minor route and schedule changes this year. This comes as a result of the Kansas Housing Services Corporation initiating cuts to the Community Services Block Grant that has been supporting the transportation service.
Although 70 percent of state and federal funding is in effect to preserve existing services, the remaining 30 percent in matching funds is left in the breakdown lane.
“Our actions result from a local match funding shortfall,” said Steve Lohr, SEK-CAP executive director. “We planned for it and were successful in maintaining our state (20 percent) and federal (50 percent) funding. Because we cannot immediately generate the local match, we’re in a tough position.”
Changes to the service, which went into effect July 1, include the curtailing of service to one bus instead of two and the operation of the service in a more concentrated area of southern Pittsburg 11 hours a day Monday through Friday. On top of this, late afternoon and evening runs will be in effect from the southern route to Wal-Mart in north Pittsburg by means of the U.S. 69 bypass.
But all is not lost, since Lohr says that those wishing to schedule rides 24 hours in advance can still do so, as he and the organization continue to sniff out the remaining matching funds to reinstate full service.
Among the students affected by these changes are frequent bus riders Mariana Berselli and Ana Ayres, exchange students from Brazil. Despite these challenges, the two had nothing but good things to say about the service.
“The experience has been good,” Berselli said. “The driver always helps when I ask where the nearest stop is or where I should stop to go somewhere.”
Berselli and Ayres ride the bus mainly to get their groceries and other necessities from Wal-Mart and other places, but there’s no limit to where a student may want to go in Pittsburg. The best part about the service is that it’s free – just familiarize yourself with the schedule to find where the nearest stop is and what time the driver will be there.
Berselli has a few words of advice to incoming freshmen and others new to the service: Don’t buy products that are too bulky since the bus is not that big. Also, pay attention to when the driver has his breaks so you don’t need to get out of the bus and wait outside while the driver takes time off.
About the curtailment of the service, Ayres assures freshmen that they have nothing to fear.
“They are changing the schedule and that may cause a few inconveniences at first,” Ayres said. “But I am sure that the new students will be very thankful for that service after a few days here.”
- Student loan debt takes political stage
| Marcus Clem reporter |
American student debtors owe a lot of money, and addressing their ability to pay is steadily gaining national attention.
There are several ideas on the table to help with what Forbes charts as the nation’s $1.08 trillion owed by college students. Nearly 12 percent of that amount is tied to accounts that are 90 days past due or in default.
“Since the recession began in 2007-‘08, this has been a challenge for our graduates and our students who leave school without graduating, as well,” said Tammy Higgins, Pittsburg State director of student financial assistance.
Higgins says that a key problem with student debt nationwide is debtors’ confidence that they will be able to handle the problem later on, even if they are not prepared.
“That’s not the best plan to make, though, as the debt creeps up on you little by little,” she said. “When it’s time to go into repayment, you might be in for a sticker shock.”
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for the people in the worst straits.
For publicly subsidized loans, which control the bulk of the debt, any unpaid amount is forgiven after 20 years. Most public sector workers can have it done after 10 years.
People who qualify for the Pay as You Go program, available since 2012, can cap their debt payments at 10 percent of their income without consequence.
“I encourage students to try to cap their loan debt at the starting salary they expect to make when they graduate or leave school,” Higgins said. “Of course, this has to be a realistic number, not what they hope to earn.”
Some banks offer to refinance loans to as low as 3.5 percent for qualified debtors, according to Time magazine.
For the most part, though, refinance without government support of student debt cuts into a lenders’ profit margin, and many are reluctant to do it.
“Because the lender cannot repossess one’s education, it is much harder to dismiss student loans,” said Kevin Bracker, professor of finance, “in order to avoid creating a situation where there is a greater incentive for default.
“That said, you cannot squeeze blood from a turnip, and some students have borrowed more money than they can afford to repay. Under this situation, it may be better for all involved to have a mechanism that allows for a remedy…”
Such a solution is making waves in the U.S. Congress.
Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren backs a proposal to sponsor student-debt refinancing for up to 25 million people to the current federal subsidized-loan rate of 3.4 percent. However, Higgins says, that would cost the government $58 billion over 10 years.
The idea’s opponents howled over the tax hikes Warren backed as a way to pay that bill, and Sen. Pat Roberts and Sen. Jerry Moran, both Republicans who represent Kansas, participated in a successful vote to block its passage.
- PSU commemorates 100 years since Russ Hall fire
Michael Bauer, editor-in-chief
In the early morning hours of June 30, 1914, the Pittsburg community gathered and saw in horror what remained of Russ Hall.
The Main, as the building was known then, had been struck by lightning in the middle of the night and it wasn’t long before the rest of the building went up in flames.
But through perseverance and rebuilding, Russ Hall still stands and 100 years later, the community and the university gathered to honor those who helped restore PSU’s iconic complex.
On Monday, June 30, the Russ Hall Fire Centennial Commemoration was held outside the front doors.
“Our university has experienced many dramatic moments in the last century,” said Lynette Olson, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “But nothing has been as big as the Russ Hall fire.”
Not only was The Main uninsured at the time, but the thought of having classes for the upcoming fall semester was in serious doubt.
It became a challenge for the school’s new president, William Brandenburg, who on the morning after the fire, proclaimed that the school would carry on.
“Brandenburg said to the crowd, ‘We will not miss a single day of classes’ on the morning after the fire,” said Randy Roberts, dean of library services and special collections.
Indeed, classes did continue and Roberts said that “not a single student withdrew from that fall semester.”
The university and the community rallied to raise close to $126,000 – around $3 million today.
“Russ Hall is a reminder of cooperation between the city and the school,” Olson said.
Roberts spoke about some of the details of what happened during the fire and how some artifacts were saved that night.
“It didn’t take long for the windows to break, which allowed the fire to spread faster,” Roberts said. “Hundreds of books and materials were saved from the building by volunteers,” Roberts said.
One of those volunteers was a student named Rex Tanner, who lost his life that day.
Tanner was struck by an electrical wire as he was helping fire fighters fight the blaze.
“Rex Tanner was very much like our students today,” Olson said. “He was just a few credit hours short of his bachelor’s degree.”
A moment of silence was held for Tanner during the commemoration.
The city fire department may have consisted of wagons and horses a century ago, but Pittsburg Fire Chief Mike Simons said the mindset for those who fought to extinguish the flames at Russ Hall was the same for every firefighter today.
“When a firefighter is arriving to a fire, they are clam and focused on the job. The same went for those that night,” Simons said. “They asked themselves the same questions then as we do today.”
Before the end of the ceremony, the fire department and the city were presented with a plaque that reads: “Grateful appreciation of over a hundred years of service to PSU and the community.”
A reception was held at the conclusion inside Russ Hall on the second floor where many of the artifacts that were saved from the fire were put back on display.
- World Cup Watch Students gather for world’s top sporting event
Michael Bauer editor-in-chief
The world’s premier sporting event has been uniting people in supporting their countrymen. From Germany to Japan to even Pittsburg, fans have held mass gatherings to watch the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
Students from Pittsburg State have chimed in, hosting their own watch parties and it’s not only international students, either.
On Monday, June 16, PSU students assembled at Varsity’s Sports Bar in Frontenac to watch the United States take on Ghana in its opening match.
“My son told me today that they were going to bring in 30 of his friends to watch it,” said Mike Knaup, owner of Varsity’s Sports Bar.
Varsity’s is no stranger to hosting watch parties from other sporting events like the Super Bowl, but this marked the first world cup watch party that Knaup’s restaurant has held and it shouldn’t be the last.
“I’d be interested in doing this again,” said Matt Sayre, senior in trades program from Frontenac who also works part time at Varsity’s. “It beats sitting at home and watching the game by yourself.”
About 30 supporters showed up and after each U.S. goal, the place erupted in jubilant cheers.
“It seemed like everyone was pretty energetic,” Sayre said. “Everybody was pumped up and with the U.S. scoring 30 seconds into the game it made it pretty interesting. Once Ghana equalized, it was a nail biter.”
So loud was the place after the United States’ 2-1 victory that Knaup jokingly told the fans about a noise complaint from the neighborhood.
“I was joking about that,” Knaup said. “We welcome that, especially when you’re cheering for the USA.”
But the United States isn’t the only team students are gathering to watch as people from other countries have their own nations to cheer for, including host nation Brazil.
“I support Brazil, of course,” said Emely Baldi, junior in pharmacy from Brazil. “In Brazil, since you are a child, you are used to soccer and learn to appreciate it. It is a national passion and it gets more prominent during the world cup.”
International students have also been gathering in their dorm rooms to watch.
While American supporters are just hoping that the United States can advance to the knockout stages, Brazilian fans are demanding nothing less than for Brazil to win the entire tournament.
“I expect to see Brazil in the final game,” Baldi said. “However, I don’t have any preference about who the opponent is. I would love to see Brazil win the world cup, especially since this one is in our house.”
But being away from home while watching the world cup has its perks. For one, Baldi and the rest of the Brazilian fans are rooting from outside of their home country.
“Even though I’m cheering here, it is not the same feeling. In Brazil, the world cup is a time to celebrate and support Brazil with my family and friends and I really would want to be there to do it,” Baldi said.
Another difference lies in the experience in watching the tournament.
“In Brazil, I love to live this experience and I know how people there can get crazy watching it,” Baldi said. “Since this world cup is in Brazil, I imagine it’s about ten times more amazing.”
But not everyone is rooting just for their home nations. Some fans have taken a liking to individual stars such as four-time FIFA World Player of the Year winner Lionel Messi from Argentina.
“I support Argentina because I like Messi and I believe he is one of the legendary players of the world,” said Tanjima Alam, graduate student in human resource development from Bangladesh.
Alam, who said she traditionally watches the world cup in her home country with family and friends, would like to see Argentina and Brazil in the final match and loves everything about the tournament.
“I like to watch because it’s really exciting and I like (soccer),” Alam said. “I enjoy the goals and most of all, the crowd.”
- PSU Theater eyes ‘professional’ spotlight
| Marcus Clem reporter |
A line of people out the door and stretching down the block for Pittsburg State’s student coterie is not unexpected during any given show, and now PSU Theater is set for a stage said to be key in taking that success to the next level.
The Center for the Arts will open its doors this August, and one of its chief features will be a 250-seat performance stage.
“I am so excited,” said Taylor Patterson, senior in communication. “I feel so lucky that during my last year that I get to work or perform in this new center.
“PSU Theater that I have known is ending, but a new era is starting for our underclassmen.”
Memorial Auditorium and Convention Center, located at 503 N. Pine, has held PSU Theater’s largest shows with a maximum capacity of 1,500.
However, says Cynthia Allan, chair and professor of communication, the new location will save her department time and resources and open new opportunities for her students.
“It was a win-win for everybody,” Allan said of PSU Theater’s relationship with Memorial. “This won’t affect them too much because they no longer have to try to cram events … It gives them a lot more booking flexibility than they had before.”
In taking up the space offered by the Center for the Arts, PSU Theater won’t have to pay an $800 fee previously owed for each series of performances at Memorial, though Allan says that cost was usually covered by awarding the proceeds from a matinée showing.
A workshop and extended backstage facilities will help shows set up for most performances, Allan says.
“We will not have to spend money dragging scenery down to Memorial,” she said.
Employment opportunities will also exist for students who want to get a taste of the professional world, says Joseph Firman, Center for the Arts director. Creating this experience on campus was a central goal in the center’s construction, he added.
The Grubbs Hall Studio Theatre will still play an important role as a classroom, rehearsal area and the main performance space for entirely student-run shows, such as A Very Potter Musical.
Eventually, Firman says, all performing arts activities at the university may be able to do everything in the new building.
“The beautiful thing is, we’re expanding capacity,” he said. “Today, there are some programs and shows that are perfect for Grubbs and the Studio Theater, and there are some that are designed for the Center for the Arts theater.
“The new building is a laboratory space. Those of us who are there will be dedicated to the students, to honing their skills.”