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Friday, February 23, 2024

UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank toured the Mosse Humanities Building Monday, which they said is not suited to student learning. They supported proposals for new L&S and Engineering buildings. 

Thompson, Blank tour aging Humanities building, ask legislature to invest in new facilities

UW System Interim President Tommy Thompson and UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank toured the Mosse Humanities Building and discussed proposals for new College of Letters and Science and Engineering buildings Monday.

“The two projects that are in the budget for this year are cornerstones for growth and success in UW-Madison,” Blank said.   

Gov. Tony Evers’ capital budget recommended about $1 billion for building projects within the UW System, which university leaders praised for its investments in infrastructure on campus.

However, Republicans on the State Building Commission deadlocked on every project in Evers’ proposal, moving it to the Joint Finance Committee, which will craft its own proposal. 

Republicans were concerned about the amount of spending and wanted to see how federal funds would shape the budget process. 

Among the projects are a new College of Letters and Science building that would be located two blocks southwest of the current Humanities building at the corner of Johnson and Park Streets. Susan B. Davis Hall and Zoe Bayliss Co-Op would be demolished. 

The project is part of a four-phase project to tear down the Humanities building. About a quarter of the $88.4 million project would be supported by donor funding. 

The estimated cost to repair, rather than replace the building would be at least $70 million and it would remain below current building codes. Thompson added that 83 percent of the capital budget projects are geared toward repairs and renovations, rather than new buildings.

Nearly two-thirds of all undergraduate credit hours take place in L&S, and Blank said that almost every student has at least one class in the building.  

Thomspon and Blank pointed to signs of aging around the building, water leaks and its inability to support modern learning needs. Blank said the building, which was constructed in 1966, is in “dire shape.”

“If you’re in L&S, you don’t stay [in the building]. You come to classes, and you can’t wait to get the hell out of here,” Thompson said, explaining that the building’s layout does not allow faculty and students to communicate effectively. 

Blank said that a new engineering building would allow the university to expand the size and scope of the program and add more modern research capabilities. The total cost of the two-phase project would total $300 million, with $200 million coming from general fund supported borrowing and $100 million in gifts and grants. 

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Thompson said the new engineering building would support the economic growth of Wisconsin and meet the demand for more engineering graduates.

“This is all about building Wisconsin. So my message to the legislature is: this is our future. This is not some chancellor or some acting president coming up here wanting to spend money. We want to build the capital, we want to build the campus, we want to build the state. In order to do that, we need some collaboration, and some understanding,” he said. 

Blank also addressed the concrete slabs that fell off of Van Hise Hall. She said she was “horrified” at the pictures and thankful that it happened on a Sunday afternoon when fewer students were around. 

Blank said she was appreciative that Gov. Tony Evers authorized emergency work on the building. A contracted structural engineer recommended the removal of all the concrete slabs on the third and fourth floors and the installation of railings. 

“It is one more example of the cumulative impact when maintenance budgets shrink and when deferred maintenance grows,” Blank said. 

No classes are currently held in the building, but UW System employees will be temporarily relocated until the repairs are complete. 

Projects on Van Hise are not in the budget request, but the latest master plan shows that Van Hise would not be demolished until 2035 or later, WPR reported

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Hope Karnopp

Hope Karnopp is the news manager and dabbles in music reviews at The Daily Cardinal. She previously hosted the Cardinal Call for WORT-FM and edited state news.


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