Department sees cuts to repair funding

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Ashley Dwy

DeKALB — The Department of Biological Sciences will no longer be reimbursed for any third party repairs due to how old its facility is.

This, along with other concerns regarding preventative maintenance such as roof leaks and broken lab equipment, was a main concern at the Operating Staff Council meeting from 9 to 11 a.m. Thursday at the Holmes Student Center Sky Room.

Linda Yates, laboratory manager for the department of biological sciences, said the department has equipment that is expensive to maintain, and it will be feeling new tensions without the reimbursement.

“We have an electron microscopy core that we maintain at our facility that is used by many researchers [and] has a contract that’s costing us about $25,000 a year to maintain … We’re really, really stressed out about that right now,” Yates said.

Yates was not the only person in attendance to raise questions, and the council hosted Beth Ingram, executive vice president and provost, and Chief Financial Officer Sarah Chinniah, to address such concerns.

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Both Ingram and Chinniah said Yates’ concerns are valid but that there are numerous layers to the discussion that need to be addressed first in order to resolve her concerns.

“I often talk about levers we pull,” Chinniah said. “To get some cash savings, we hold the facilities lever, and we continue to pull that. That has really impacted our ability to address preventative maintenance, let alone respond to roof leaks and crises. So it is part of a much larger conversation because we are dealing with some carryover and some big impacts from the lack of investment and maintenance in our facilities.”

SGA Senator Sabrina Self said she believes preventative maintenance for equipment is an investment in students and should be treated as such.

“I understand that enrollment is falling, but the maintenance and equipment [are] really an investment in the students,” Self said. “I would encourage you to think of it that way because whenever students are here we’re having this huge problem with morale. If things are broken and dirty and roofs are leaking, that’s really going to prevent people from coming to the university in general.”

Ingram said she and Chinniah are starting to get involved in the Facilities Master Plan process, which she said is going to be a robust process that will fund preventative maintenance needs.

She said the university is expecting, but has not yet received, funding for such things.

“The state allocated some money for preventative maintenance for NIU,” Ingram said. “They promised the money, and we expect to get the money, but it’s not here — they have not written us a check yet.”