RIC Administrators Provide Updates, Answer Questions at Town Meeting

College administrators from physical plant, campus police and capital projects served as panelists at a recent Town Hall Meeting, during which they discussed the status of the Alex and Ani Hall art center, the bond projects, what’s new on campus and what to expect in the future.

Town Hall Meetings at RIC began about three years ago to allow for the airing of grievances, said Don Tencher, assistant vice president for administration and finance and  director of athletics and recreation at the college.

Now the meetings are held to provide information and answer questions from the campus community, he said.

“We are not only trying to do the right things, but we also feel that input is very important,” said Tencher. “We’re here to listen because sometimes the faculty, staff and students can tell us best what to fix.” 

The first order of business at the most recent town meeting dealt with the status of the college’s many capital projects.

“The art center is our main priority,” said Kevin Fitta, interim director of RIC’s capital projects. “We will be ramping up for the bond project starting in the late spring or early summer.”

The issue of parking at RIC, a hot topic since separate lots were designated to commuters, residents and faculty/staff in August of 2012, was also discussed.

Designs to remodel Parking Lot B, the large lot stretching across Whipple Hall and the Nazarian Center, and Lot D, located on College Road near Roberts Hall, are in the works for next year.

Fitta said there may be a new "entrance-only" connecting College Road to Lot B, and there are also plans to turn the one-way roads in front of Lot B and D into two-way roads, which will get rid of roadside parking. This is why surveyors have been in the area recently.

Those who have been fighting to get Lot C – the small faculty staff lot on the side of Whipple – to become an all-access lot will be disappointed to know that the college’s traffic and parking  committee has decided the lot will remain reserved for faculty and staff only.

Smaller capital projects for the future include adjusting the sharp curve near the Henry Barnard School, replacing air ventilators in the Clarke Science Building, designing an electrical transporter and new electrical cables for the entire RIC campus and putting a new roof on the Murray Center, said Fitta.

As for the $50 million renovation of Gaige and Craig-Lee Halls and the Fogarty Life Science Building, Fitta said proposals from several different architects are being evaluated.

In the next six to eight weeks, one architect will be chosen to undertake the renovation of Gaige and Craig-Lee Halls. A different architect has been chosen to revamp Fogarty, and these plans will be finalized in coming weeks, he added.

One issue that has arisen with the renovation of these major buildings is the inevitable displacement of classes, faculty, staff and students, said Tencher, adding that the objective is to come up with the most inexpensive solution possible.

A lot of research has been done on portable classrooms, but there is more support for a structure that could connect to existing buildings so students can access hallways and rest rooms, said Tencher, who is concerned that the latter structure will need to be built in the already sparse parking areas.

“There are a lot of little pieces that need to come together to finish the bond project, but we are in good shape right now,” said Fitta.

Deputy Chief of Campus Police Steven Casbarro, who also serves as assistant director of security, added to the list of campus updates.

Campus police have built up the security of 60 percent of all RIC buildings by converting them to slide-card access only after hours. This allows them to identify the people in a building at a given time.

“It gives us more control and more accountability in a lot of situations,” said Tencher. “The object is to eventually convert all the buildings on campus.”

There has also been an effort among campus police, human resources and and physical plant to create temporary handicapped parking for students, faculty and staff in situations where getting a legitimate handicapped parking permit may not be possible.

Casbarro and Tencher added that plans are in the works to host another active-shooter emergency response exercise to allow for federal and state officials, and other participants, to observe and take part in the scenario. The last exercise of this kind took place in October 2011 in the then vacant Building 2.

Despite the recent and upcoming renovations, beautification of the RIC campus remained an important issue for all in attendance.

Tencher said that the physical plant staff has been putting concrete/asphalt paths wherever they notice footpaths and heavy student traffic. Once the art center is finished, the temporary walkways that have been put down in the area will be replaced with wide, permanent concrete walkways, said Fitta.

The area around the art center and Alger Hall will be enhanced with landscaping, and there are plans for three new sculptures to go in the area as well, he added.

Michael Smith, RIC’s interim assistant director for institutional research and planning, credited panelists on their efforts to keep the RIC campus and community safe, beautiful and happy: “In all the years I have been here, I don’t think the campus has ever been in better shape.”

The next Town Hall Meeting will take place on Friday, April 26, from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in The Murray Center Room 201. Members of Facilities and Operations, Campus Police and Capital Projects will attend and provide updates and answer questions on campus initiatives.

For more information, contact Don Tencher at (401) 456-8007 or dtencher@ric.edu.