The Fall semester has been a time of restoration and improvement for Southern University’s campus. Over $200 million has been allocated towards construction improvement within the Southern University System, according to the Board of Supervisors September 2019 meeting packet.
As the different campuses continue to age, continuous maintenance and progressive upgrades to facilities and infrastructure are essential to maintaining the quality of life for both students and faculty. The issue is, however, that the process for getting a construction project approved and started can often times present a greater obstacle than the actual construction. To oversimplify the process, it first starts with a proposal to the Board of Supervisors requesting that money be set aside to fund a construction project. Once it is approved, the project then goes through a long bidding process where the work is outsourced to a private company who will fulfill the contract. At that point, construction can begin.
Currently, about 87 of the 132 proposed and approved construction projects have been completed and some 47 projects, with some as old as 2016, remaining incomplete. As far as the Baton Rouge campus is concerned, there remains open about 19 unfulfilled construction projects out of a total of about 70 projects.
The open contracts include various upgrades to the internal facilities of several buildings, sidewalk and parking lot upgrades, and other various building upgrades. The packet also makes note of several new editions to the campus such as a new “STEM” complex building that is still currently in the planning phase.
Prior to any additions, however, it can be anticipated that many of the uninhibited and no longer used facilities on campus will be demolished. The packet also makes mention of an approved project costing just shy of $2 million that would see the West Architecture building, Jesse Owens, Lotie Anthony, Washington Hall, the Old Hill Infirmary, and Old Jones Hall demolished in order to free up space on campus.
When asked about their opinion, students had a mixed reaction. Shaun Stewart, a freshman Biology major from New Orleans, Louisiana feels that the university should address the lack of housing on campus, “there are too many students here and not enough on-campus housing” while Mercy Smith, a Sophomore Business major, thinks that this is a great opportunity for Southern to build things that are going to last, “as long as what ever they replace [the demolished buildings] with something better than it’s fine with me.”
In a previous interview, Eli G. Guillory, the Director of Southern University System Facilities Planning, said that construction projects give the university an opportunity to correct the mistakes and address the needs of both students and faculty but that everyone needs to have patience, “There shouldn’t be anything of major concern at this time. Just have patience.”
In the coming months, the Baton Rouge of campus is going to see some of its most iconic buildings reduced to rubble. Only time will tell if the building replacements are a positive or negative addition to Southern.