Oct 28, 2008

Recent upgrades spice up academic facilities

by Drew Menard

Exponential growth over the last few years has caused Liberty University to cap enrollment at 10,500 students in order to address growing academic concerns on campus.

“Capping enrollment allows us (the University Administration and Faculty) the capability to identify and prioritize delayed or deferred academic facilities projects across each of the colleges and schools,” Provost Boyd Rist said.

In addition to its usual academic budget, the university has allotted more than $10 million to fund facility improvements across campus. These funds include $1,877,394 for School of Engineering and Computational Sciences (SECS) offices, labs and classrooms, $92,418 for construction of a new chemistry lab, $1,579,973 for renovations to the Towns-Alumni Center Auditorium as well as the front entrance redesign, $46,680 to remodel 90.9 the Light and its recording studio, $30,116 to the Theatre Department for stage lighting and a new practice dance floor and $3,316,072 for the expansion of the library and related computer labs on the third floor of DeMoss. The Distance Learning Program received $1,250,000 for its facility update. DeMoss Hall’s third floor now houses the SECS, accommodating the 336 currently enrolled students, according to Administrative Assistant Robin Purdy.

“The new space for SECS on the third floor has helped immensely,” SECS Dean Ron Sones said. “We have most of our faculty collocated for the first time which adds to our interaction and effectiveness.”

Rist stressed the importance of allotting space for SECS.

“The creation of an academic home for (SECS) is very significant in signaling to prospective students and donors that the university has a serious commitment to engineering,” he said.

DeMoss’ third floor also boasts some 45,000 square feet of added library space, according to the Liberty Journal. Though no books have been placed in the third floor library, the area currently provides students with computing stations, instructional labs, group study rooms, offices, quiet study areas and open study space.

“In terms of facilities that benefit the largest number of students, I would put at the top of the list the library expansion,” Rist said.

Other academic facility upgrades include $51,755 for the Department of Health Sciences and Kinesiology, $955,177 for academic warehousing, $1,250,000 for distance learning facilities, $905,266 to renovate the Lynchburg Inn, $19,855 for the Seminary conference room, $52,902 for a Homiletics Lab, nearly $15,000 to renovate the band room, just under $24,000 to renovate 12 practice rooms, $13,584 for the Center for Judaic Studies and $45,181 for the Human Performance Lab and related facilities.

Liberty has also spent a great deal of time, energy, space and resources on the Ultimate LU initiative to bring more exciting recreational activities to campus. Though Ultimate LU caused skeptics to question the university’s priorities, many of the projects were partially or fully-funded by donations. The $1.1 million indoor soccer facility is being paid for by a local alumnus, and an out-of-state donor gave over $2 million for the Snowflex project, according to the Liberty Journal.

Chancellor Jerry Falwell Jr. told the Liberty Journal, “Academics and spiritual life will always take priority over recreation.”
Liberty University may freeze enrollment for another year or two as additional projects are undertaken in order to meet the needs of the large student body and faculty.

“The work is never done,” Charles Spence, director of planning and construction, said. “We seek to constantly improve.”


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