Freshmen residence hall approved

By Lauren Stott and Ryan Griesmeyer

The Board of Trustees voted Thursday to approve a plan for a construction and maintenance contract on a 1,000-bed campus residence hall.

The board unanimously approved the university’s request to negotiate an agreement with Collegiate Housing Foundation, a non-profit organization that will lease space on campus.

The residence hall is intended to house freshmen and will be constructed in neighborhood-like pods of private rooms with shared bathrooms and communal areas for studying and socializing.

“This is a very innovative concept,” said President John Peters.

The board also voted to approve a revised budget for phase three of construction on updated fire sprinkler systems in campus residence halls.

“Phases one and two are complete,” Peters said. “We are requesting a revision for the budget for phase three.”

Sprinklers have been updated in Lincoln, Douglas and Neptune residence halls, according to the BOT meeting agenda. Only Stevenson towers will undergo upgrades for phase three.

Peters said the request is in response to a 2008 state law requiring sprinkler systems in all university residence halls by 2013.

The board also finalized approval for the FY 2012 appropriated capital budget request, which includes funding for a new computer science and technology center, renovations to electrical systems in several buildings, elevator repairs and roadwork.

Peters also spoke in depth about the Vision 2020 Initiative, which was introduced at his annual State of the University address.

Peters first looked at the challenge presented by the current public university model.

“It’s not an understatement to say we’re in a period of change and uncertainty,” he said. “Those [students who graduate] take longer, pay more and are saddled with debt.”

Although the state has not seen a let up in hard economic times, Peters said it is important to focus on the competition for recruitment with other schools in order to keep enrollment steady. This does not just include four-year universities, but online and community colleges as well.

“There is more competition than ever for these students,” he said. “Make no mistake about it, they are real competitors.”

In regards to economic troubles, Peters once again referenced the True North campaign as a fund raising effort to help NIU take fiscal matters into their own hands.