Photos and Story by Alyssa Muench
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According to the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System (MnSCU), Bemidji State’s space on campus is underutilized. To resolve this issue, MnSCU suggests that Hagg-Sauer be demolished.
A predesign was submitted to MnSCU in 2012, requesting sufficient funds to demolish and rebuild Hagg-Sauer because of the $6 million that goes into maintaining the building. Except for the funds to tear down Hagg Sauer, this request was denied.
Along with the denied request, MnSCU recommended that the University follow through with the Hagg-Sauer Hall demolition. They suggested BSU accommodate displaced departments and classrooms within existing space across campus. They also stipulated that the University may replace Hagg-Sauer Hall only if it is an academic space that is absolutely needed.
Bemidji State’s administration had drafted six routes in which they could take in dealing with Hagg-Sauer situation. However, due to MnSCU’s strict recommendations, “it’s fair to say we’re left with three different options at this point,” said Scott Faust, the Director of Communications and Marketing at BSU.
The first option is to demolish Hagg-Sauer and construct nothing in its place. This would require the University to renovate existing academic buildings to accommodate faculty offices and classrooms. “This would be great if we could wave a magic wand,” said Faust, “but it could cause disruption for students and faculty.” This option follows MnSCU’s recommendations, and therefore has potential to be approved.
“Is it really necessary?” asked Hunter Gally a sophomore at BSU. Gally thinks the building is unappealing, but cannot justify tearing it down. “It’ll disrupt our class life,” said Gally, “The other project is annoying, I don’t want to hear construction every day.” With a construction project currently in progress, Gally does not like the idea of moving departments and students around campus.
Another option that MnSCU could potentially support requires BSU to demolish Hagg-Sauer and rebuild a significantly smaller building to be used purely as an academic space. This building could be placed as an addition to Bridgeman Hall or as a separate building connected by skyway to Bridgeman Hall. This would also require other buildings across campus to be renovated for office space as well as other instructional areas.
According to Faust, constructing a new academic building to replace Hagg-Sauer could benefit students by taking away the outdated classroom setting and creating a 21st century learning environment.
The last option is very similar. It would require demolishing Hagg-Sauer, however, a smaller academic building would be constructed to take its place. This building could be an addition to Bangsberg Hall or a separate building connected to Bangsberg Hall by a skyway.
“We’re receiving a lot more push back on the Bangsberg option,” says Faust. One of the main concerns the administration has received is with the parking lot becoming overcrowded. Another concern is that it will be too far from the dorms, especially during the winter months. “I have a couple classes in Hagg-Sauer, and I wouldn’t want to go all the way down to Bangsberg or somewhere else for class,” said Gally.
“I believe this [project] to be an act of stupidity,” said Dr. Brian Donovan, a professor in the English Department, “BSU is ready to spend $11 million so it can have less space.” He believes there to be nothing wrong with Hagg-Sauer Hall. The building is forty-one years old, and compared to Oxford University’s buildings from the 12th century, only a baby.
Donovan may have an office in Hagg-Sauer Hall, but his concern is for the students. “One advantage BSU has had, in terms of accessibility of professors after and before class, will be much diminished if faculty and teachers are in buildings that are separate from the classes.” He is also worried for the students as taxpayers to have to fund part of the project.
“When it comes to construction and capital projects, MnSCU has the final say,” said Faust. To gain money for one of these projects, it must be prioritized on the system’s list. The University must present a case to MnSCU and be granted their approval. From there the case is carried to the Minnesota State Legislature until a decision is reached.
As of right now, BSU must reach a decision and have a final draft of their 2016 predesign to MnSCU by early October. From there it will take six to eight months for MnSCU to approve or deny the predesign depending on how high this project is on the system’s prioritized list. If approved by MnSCU it will go to the legislature in the Fall of 2015. A decision to approve or deny the predesign will be made by the legislature by the Spring of 2016. If it is approved by the legislature, the demolition of Hagg-Sauer could begin as soon as the Summer of 2016, and it is possible that it would not be completed until the Fall of 2018.
According to Donovan, bringing down another building on campus would be likely to cause another “massive disruption.” With the current construction on Sanford and Memorial Halls, students are already suffering from a “great deal of disruption.” Looking at this project in the long term setting, “BSU will attract more and more students, and if we reduce space now, we may be very short of space in the future,” said Donovan.
Over all, Donovan believes this project will affect how students learn, and downsizing could potentially be the start of creating more online curriculum. “Students could be left out of a real college education,” said Donovan.
According to Faust, the administration recognizes that demolishing Hagg-Sauer is an issue that BSU has to face, and they have accepted that. “The idea of tearing down a building that is in use feels like a loss,” said Faust, “but done right, it could be a great opportunity for students.”