By Benjamin Solomon, Staff Writer
On Wednesday, March 7, Chancellor Robert John- son hosted a townhall event about the campus master plan. The event, which was mostly attended by UMass Dartmouth staff, took place in CVPA 158. Chancellor Johnson presented his plan for physical development of the campus, over a ten- year period.
The presentation began with an acknowledgement of the challenges facing the plan. The UMass Dart- mouth is over $500 million behind in maintenance.
Additionally, the chan- cellor said that this school has not had a major invest- ment from the state since Ronald Reagan was pres- ident. That’s back when UMass Dartmouth was Southeastern Massachu- setts University.
The plans started with the academic buildings. First, Johnson intends to build a new interdisciplin- ary science focused build- ing next to Dion, where there are currently trailers that serve as offices. Sketches showed a glass clad building in a style like the Paul Rudolph build- ings the make up much of the campus.
The Chancellor also in- tends to renovate the ex- isting academic buildings, for structural concerns but also modernization. The plans include more hang- out areas in the style of the library living room.
Johnson also intends to have new freshman dorms and a new dining common built in two years, where Lot 7 currently is. None of the current dorms in the freshman quad will be in use once this is done.
These new dorms will be financed through a joint public-private partnership. Essentially, a private com- pany will build the dorms and lease them to UMass Dartmouth for a fixed price, for 40 years. After that, UMass Dartmouth will take ownership of the buildings.
According to Johnson, this partnership is required because the school cannot finance new dorms by it- self. Despite the private part of this arrangement, the way RAs work will be the same – still run by Housing and Residential Education.
At the same time, there will be a new dining com- mon to replace the Mar- ketplace. This space is intended to serve not just as somewhere to eat, but as somewhere for students to hang out.
Separately, the Dells are going to be demolished.
Later, Chancellor John- son plans to expand the campus center to double the square footage of space. This will include moving administrative of- fices that deal with stu- dents to the campus center for convenience. The cam- pus center will also have club offices along with more hangout areas.
Campus sports facilities are also a target for up- grades. This includes ex- panding the gym to have an indoor ice rink and an indoor track. Chancellor Johnson specifically men- tioned wanting a field house big enough to host graduation, as graduation is currently held off-cam- pus.
To tie this all together, Ring Road is going to be changed. First, the section between the freshman quad and the rest of cam- pus will be removed, rout- ing traffic through the currently one-way road which the sophomore dorms sit on.
Next, Ring Road will be connected to Cross Road for easier access to the school. Where this new connection meets Ring Road will be a rotary in- stead of a regular intersec- tion.
To top this all off, Ring Road will be expanded with a tree-lined strip of grass separating the road and the sidewalk/bike lane. This should make the campus more pedestrian friendly.
There were more specif- ic details to all of these changes, but Chancellor Johnson had a bigger over- all message. The condition of the campus right now is not acceptable and there is a plan to fix that.