Administrators are moving forward on several methods to help better utilize building space and have agreed with a Stewarding Excellence @ Illinois project team recommendation of the need for a campus oversight committee.
"Determining the appropriate use of space will always be an issue on campus," said Interim Vice President and Chancellor Bob Easter, and Richard Wheeler, interim vice chancellor for academic affairs and provost, in their May 24 response to the Space Utilization project review team.
"We are reassured that even in these difficult economic times, we are making progress on addressing the challenges of scheduling and making necessary improvements to the physical and technological environment on this campus," they said.
The administrators said progress was being made in better identifying and using available space, and that renovation of 60 percent of general assignment classrooms would soon be completed to include electronic instructional media systems.
"The campus must have classrooms equipped to meet the current instructional demands and available technology," Easter and Wheeler said.
They said a 1994 initiative to make those renovations had seen early success - with the upgrades completed at larger lecture halls - but it had slowed in recent years because of funding concerns. Classroom upgrades for those lecture halls holding 30 to 50 students are being conducted through a mix of available funds.
The administrators agreed with the project team's recommendation that an Instructional Space Advisory Committee be formed to address campuswide education-space priorities.
"A standing oversight committee has been a recurrent recommendation as part of previous reviews of the use of instructional space," they said.
The committee is expected to:
- Adopt guiding principles and standards for instructional space and equipment.
- Inventory and assess size, type and condition of current instructional space.
- Advise on space scheduling.
- Create and annually track space utilization metrics.
A parallel campus committee to address non-instructional space is also planned, and a provost's-level committee, which would include the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research, will be formed to specifically study research space needs. The Office of the Provost also is addressing records storage needs and is expected to formulate a plan over the next year.
Administrators did not agree with the project team's recommendation to move all space-management functions to the Office of the Provost. Instead, Easter and Wheeler said, that responsibility would continue to be shared by the Office of the Provost and Facilities and Services.
Administrators also disagreed with a project team recommendation calling for a plan to demolish underutilized buildings on campus to save maintenance and energy costs.
They also called into question a project team recommendation to reduce and eventually eliminate off-campus space leasing.
The administration's response indicated savings of $117,000 from annual leases already canceled or renegotiated, in addition to some $700,000 in annual lease savings after the reorganization of UI Extension.
But they said some circumstances called for off-campus leasing.
"There are situations where off-campus leases are the best options due to programmatic or space needs," Easter and Wheeler said in their response. "We support a more thoughtful approach to leasing activity, including requiring a full examination of the feasibility of on-campus space before allowing off-campus leases."
Other project team recommendations included a call for better maintenance of university space-use records and the creation of college-specific master plans for space use.