Editorial: A necessary plan
UNH must follow through on Campus Master Plan
Published: Friday, October 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, February 13, 2013 15:02
The final draft of the university’s Campus Master Plan was presented to the public on Thursday, months after it drew criticism from students, local residents and this editorial board alike. To the credit of the planners, the final draft has taken most of those criticisms into account.
If UNH follows the Master Plan, the university’s open lands will not be touched except to maintain or improve the “educational agriculture and aesthetic value of the lands.” The equine facilities will not be moved, as had been discussed in previous versions of the Master Plan. Both of these points are laid out clearly, in black and white terms, in this final version of the plan.
Instead, this current plan outlines many initiatives that can only be called improvements for the university and its students. The renovation of the 104-year-old Hamilton-Smith is addressed as one of the chief proposals. A new Center for the Arts next to C-Lot is planned as well. The center would give more visibility to the arts program and be an upgrade from the Paul Creative Arts Center, which lacks a concert hall and nearby parking.
The plan also details how open space in McConnell and other buildings could be allocated with the opening of the Paul College this coming spring. The expansion of the Field House and the Campus Recreation building were identified as priority projects. The degradation of the College Brook Ravine, which runs through the center of campus, was also of concern.
UNH President Mark Huddleston will review the plan in November, after which the plan will be presented to the Board of Trustees. And even though provost John Aber said that the plan is “a template, not an action plan, ” many aspects of the plan should be implemented in the months and years following its approval.
Ham-Smith is the largest classroom building on campus and an update to its facilities – not to mention its handicap accessibility – has been long overdue. The Campus Recreation building has been too small for a student body of UNH’s size for nearly a decade. And the PCAC and its lack of certain spaces have been a point of contention for the students and staff that learn, teach and perform there.
These and other priorities in the Master Plan should be part of an “action plan.” They should not just be a recommendation or tentative outline. We realize that funding for brick and mortar projects are constrained. But these priority updates are essential. When the Paul College ran short of its private fundraising goal, UNH made up the difference, as it will borrow the final $11.5 million needed to fund the building from internal campus reserves and repay it from the campus operating budget over time.
If the administration is willing to take that action for a new building, it should certainly be open to taking similar approaches to renovate buildings that already exist and do not meet the needs of its students. The final draft of this Campus Master Plan is one that we support. Now, it is up to UNH to follow through on its outline for the future.