University can’t afford to renovate house

NIU should prioritize its spending on students’ needs instead of the abandoned Oderkirk House, 217 N. Annie Glidden Road.

The recently formed Annie Glidden Agrarian Society is fighting for NIU to fund repairs to the historic house. If the society can raise funds for the house’s preservation, the house should stay; but, NIU cannot afford to spend money on the house’s renovations.

The Oderkirk House has been leased by the university and owned by the NIU Foundation since 1977. The Agrarian Society argues NIU should maintain the house, as is required by its lease. It would cost $45,000 for the house to be cleaned, and to audit the structural renovations by a professional architect would cost $16,000, according to a Sept. 14 Northern Star article. These expenses don’t include plumbing, electricity and roof repairs.

The university is attempting to prioritize students’ needs.

“The university cannot think of a plan that would warrant the kind of investment it would take at this point, especially given university finances … how much money we need to direct toward classroom activities and students,” said Mike Malone, vice president of the NIU Foundation. “To direct money to rehabbing an old house that we’re not sure we want to keep anyway just doesn’t make any sense.”

The university does not have space for additional spending: The Board of Trustees approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2015 that plans for about $425 million in expenses and $426 million in revenue.

Leftover money should be allocated toward parts of the university that directly affect student retention, like the $812,000 NIU approved for Grant Central’s roof replacement. The finances required for the Grant roof replacement are needed because the building’s maintenance affects students and employees who use the facility. NIU cannot afford spending in places that don’t impact retention.

If the Annie Glidden Agrarian Society raises money to maintain the Oderkirk House, it has the potential to benefit the university by creating a space for the DeKalb County Community Gardens and the Global Student Organization.

But, NIU must focus on decreasing its expenses — not adding to them.