After 90 years of use, the University’s dilapidated Studio Arts Building appears to be on its last leg. But without funds to renovate, it must continue to stand.
The building has been slated for renovation for years and blueprints were drawn a year ago, but the state legislature has consistently failed to allocate the $15 million needed for the project. Meanwhile, art students must work amid lead paint, asbestos, leaky sinks and, in November 2013, a ceiling that caved in.
Dave Maharrey, executive associate director of Facility Services, said the Studio Arts Building is obviously not in ideal condition, but is safe to occupy. The building has also passed regular inspections done by the state Fire Marshal’s Office.
Although safe, students believe the state of their building demonstrates unfairness shown toward their program.
“Our building and our majors even are considered less important,” said Ellen Farrar, painting and drawing senior. “They’re not STEM majors, so basically, we’re not the big money makers that LSU or the state wants, so we’re less important and somehow deserve these conditions. We pay the same tuition, but somehow we get the worst conditions on campus. … It’s in an emergency state.”
Students’ frustrations culminated in April with two protests they hoped would draw attention to the problem and persuade state lawmakers to approve renovation funds. Protestors dressed in black and marched around campus and downtown Baton Rouge silently, symbolizing what they believe is the imminent death of their program, said Brinna Ryan, painting senior.
After the protest, a group of students met with University administrators to share their concerns. Director of External Affairs Jason Droddy said in an email that the meeting was productive and that the University would work on short-term fixes to heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) equipment and the roof.
While the Studio Arts Building is perhaps the most dire of the University’s maintenance and renovation needs, it is only one piece of a much larger problem.
The University has been unable to make $450 million worth of building and infrastructure updates in the past six years due to a lack of funding from the state legislature. Repairs are needed in nearly every building on campus, mostly to roofs and HVAC equipment, according to Facility Services director of planning, design and construction Roger Husser.
There is no consistent funding for deferred maintenance, meaning those needs have been piling up for years. The last time the University received funds to make such repairs was in 2008.
Husser said the University needs at least $20 million a year to stay on top of maintenance issues. A tight state budget means those funds are unlikely to come about any time soon, forcing the University to maintain outdated equipment.
That is not necessarily a cheaper option.
“We have to use operational resources to maintain these buildings and this equipment that has already surpassed its effective life,” Husser said. “The operational cost to the University goes up when we’re not able to address things timely.”