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Gates at the entrance of California University of PennsylvaniaGates at the entrance of California University of Pennsylvania

A MESSAGE FROM ACTING PRESIDENT GERALDINE JONES

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Posted on February 15, 2013

To: All students, faculty, staff, alumni and University friends
From: Acting President Geraldine Jones

I was delighted to meet with students last month at the spring semester’s Student Convocation. It gave me a chance to update them about our University’s progress, and to answer some thoughtful questions about important matters such as financial aid, scheduling, dining options, tuition and fees.

One topic that we touched on briefly was the renovation of the Natali Student Center. That project will be starting soon, so I’d like to share some additional information.

First, a little history: The original student center was completed in 1970. (It was known back then as the California Memorial Union.) It was renovated and expanded in 1992, and dining operations were moved from Gallagher Hall in 2000.

In 2010, a survey conducted with WTW Architects assessed the needs of students, faculty and staff. Our campus community expressed the need for a roomier dining area, more retail food options, and more comfortable areas for students to meet, work and socialize.

Because the student center is an “auxiliary” building, tuition funds cannot be used to pay for improvements. So in 2011, our students took a vote and agreed by referendum to increase the Student Center Fee to cover the cost of renovations.

When I was named acting president, I immediately called a halt to the project. Only after an in-depth review of the existing student center — including the building’s mechanical, electrical and plumbing deficiencies — did I and other administrators decide to proceed. Mindful of the project’s cost, we trimmed $5 million from the original estimate.

Why go forward? Our decision hinged on the need to repair serious problems with the student center’s aging infrastructure and outmoded design. This building has been patched and repaired many times over the past few years, and those repair costs will continue to rise if the building is allowed to deteriorate.

This renovation is a practical, student-centered project, designed to meet critical needs of the population we serve.

Student fees and Cal U’s debt load are both serious concerns, and it is extremely important for the University to balance those considerations with our students’ needs. Although academic programming is certainly the primary consideration here at Cal U, the quality of student life also plays an important role at any university. Renovating this aging student center not only improves student life, but also provides a safer environment for our students.

The project is scheduled to begin shortly after Commencement. The building is scheduled to remain open while the renovations are made. I will keep the campus community updated about the project, and I look forward to the day when we re-dedicate a revitalized Natali Student Center.

With best wishes,

Signature of Acting President Geraldine Jones.

Meet Acting President Geraldine M. Jones