Huddleston talks issues at Student Senate meeting
UNH President Mark Huddleston and Dr. Stacey Hall of the Hamel Recreation Center both presented in front of the Student Senate on Sunday night in the Paul College, discussing a number of ongoing issues that the university is tackling.
President Huddleston addressed constituents during the yearly meeting, discussing a wide array of ongoing issues at the university including divestment from fossil fuels, the Navitas program and proposals to renovate Hamilton Smith Hall.
He started by commenting that the public forum related to the divestment of the university from fossil fuels was an important discussion that took place on campus, and that although the university is committed to sustainability efforts, it is not willing to sacrifice fiduciary responsibilities of previous donors' investments.
"The more you restrict where the funds are invested, the less return you are able to get, and that is unfair to donors who gave to the school with the intention of creating a strong financial university now and into the future," Huddleston said.
He said that through the discussion the possibility of a financial sleeve could be implemented, so that future donors donate to the university with prior knowledge that their money would not be invested in fossil fuel companies.
Huddleston also addressed the university's commitment to bringing foreign exchange students to UNH through the program Navitas.
"I think it is terrific to walk around UNH and hear accents and different languages being spoken around campus. It enriches the campus diversity. We now have students from around the world in our classrooms, which makes for a pretty neat atmosphere," Huddleston said.
He said that the partnership has already brought 200 students to the school. Huddleston said that the program will only grow, eventually bringing 1,000 students from around the world to campus, creating a 10:1 ratio on campus.
Lastly, Huddleston addressed renovations to Hamilton Smith that have been on the top of the university›s capital one improvement plan for years but have made little progress due to the lack of state funding.
He commented that renovations to the building would cost nearly $23 million dollars, which the university asked to be provided by the state. However, he said that Gov. Maggie Hassan placed $7.5 million in the capital one budget for the entire system, which includes Plymouth State University, Keene State College and UNH.
"It is nothing. Here at UNH we have around $400 million in construction that needs to be done, no sweat," Huddleston said. "I am not optimistic it is going to be provided at the state level. So, we are going to need to be creative on how to raise those funds."
A large portion of the discussion on Sunday night revolved around Hall's presentation regarding the expansion of the Hamel Recreation Center. Hall commented that administration recognizes the increasing need for expanding the workout facility to accommodate the growing number of students who use the space.
She commented that the efforts of the current student body and its predecessors have pushed along the process, and although expansion plans are in their infant stages, progress has been tremendous thus far.
Hall said that a committee will meet with Hugh Group Architects on Wednesday, May 1 to discuss the logistic of expanding the center. The discussion with the architects will seek to answer what direction the current building should be added on to, what the renovations should include and how much money will be invested into the project.
"I don't think anyone is happy with the facilities available. We have a lot of needs that have to be fulfilled," Hall said.
According to Hall there is currently .4 feet of space per student while the university should have 1 square foot of space per student.
"We would need to more than double the space that we have now to meet these accommodations," Hall said.
Hall commented that with increasing student enrollment, the space in the facility is continuing to become more restricted. A survey conducted of 861 students showed that 80 percent of UNH students have forgone working out at the gym at some point because they assumed it would be overcrowded.
"I have been trying to find a gym around the country that has less space than UNH, but I have been unable to find one," Hall said. "I was shocked to find that we were absolutely last."
As a temporary fix, employees at the Hamel Recreation department are currently looking into broadening their online communication with students to provide occupant numbers that would inform the public how many people are currently using the gym. Dr. Hall said she hopes providing these numbers will alleviate time spent waiting for machines and courts in the center. She said that this new initiative will not add any extra costs to students through the activity fee.
The information would be posted on the recreation center's website and would inform students when the fewest people are working out.
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