I came to Ithaca College as president in the summer of 1997,
three major construction
projects were well
under way: the James J. Whalen Center for Music, Fitness Center,
and Center for Health Sciences. All three were intended to help
bring the quality of the College's physical foundation up to the
same high level of excellence as the programs housed in those facilities.
As you will read in "The New Face of IC" in this issue, we intend
to continue building -- both literally and figuratively -- on that
We believe that we are well poised
to consider some $150 million worth of infrastructure improvements
next 5 to 10 years.
It is a huge undertaking, but we are convinced of its necessity.
Moody's Investors Service, in a report published in December, acknowledges
the difficult choices that higher education leaders must make in
the current economic environment. Some institutions, say Moody's
analysts, will expand spending on facilities, and others will cut
back or hold stable. We have chosen to do the former, for as the
analysts warn, those that do the latter "may preserve near-term
financial health at the risk of losing competitive ground, which
could affect long-term financial health."1
The consultants on our Campus Master Plan, Sasaki Associates,
like to describe the plan as the physical expression of our institutional
plan. In many ways it mirrors the institutional plan, because it
has a set of goals listed by priority according to both urgency
of need and practicality of achievement. You do not move a plan
of such magnitude forward in wholesale fashion -- rather, it is
multifaceted as well as multiyear in its timeframe.
Three pieces of the plan are at the top of the priority list:
a new home for the School of Business, a field house, and administrative
space. We have seen phenomenal growth in the business school in
the past three years, and now it needs a new building to catch
up with the quality and dimension of its program offerings. We
have a first-rate athletics program that is without a field house
-- something that is almost unheard of across the country, let
alone in a northern climate. And our information technology, human
resources, and admissions operations have grown beyond the administrative
space currently available.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that the master plan
is solely about constructing new buildings. There is an aesthetic
dimension to the plan that is just as important -- we will keep
both indoor and outdoor spaces interesting to the eye as well as
practical. Instead of either sprawling out or building up, the
plan makes careful use of the landscape and works to enhance our
current layout to retain a sense of community and maximize the
views of Cayuga Lake.
None of this will come cheaply, of course. We were fortunate to
have collaborated with a private developer to lease the College
Circle Apartments complex, as our entire debt capacity would have
been used up if we had borrowed to construct residential housing
ourselves. To accomplish our goals we will still need to rely on
some borrowing, as well as on resources from our annual operating
budget. But mostly we will need to embark on an ambitious fund-raising
effort. We believe that both the field house and School of Business
initiatives, in particular, will attract donations from alumni
and other friends, and in the months ahead we will be asking for
support for these projects.
The most important thing to remember about the Campus Master Plan
is that it gives us the long-term view of what Ithaca College can
become. We will have to remain open to new ideas and be aware of
outside forces that can affect our objectives. Having this plan
in place gives us a context in which to make decisions and know
the relative consequences. As we drive toward the future, we could
not have a better road map to help us find the best route.