Leath speaks at GPSS about growth, efficiency review, convention center

Makayla Tendall

President Steven Leath spoke with the Graduate and Professional Student Senate about how the university and the city of Ames will tackle problems related to growth, the efficiency review and the Iowa State convention center last night.

There are currently more than 33,000 students at Iowa State, including nearly 5,300 graduate students, which is almost 100 more than last year. Leath said he predicts there to be well over 34,000 students at Iowa State next year.

“Speed of growth was far greater than anyone expected,” Leath said. “When I came here, I promised to hire a number of new faculty. Currently, there are 140 new hires and 100 open positions. The push to get new faculty here is real.”

Leath also mentioned the university’s plan to expand dining centers, which includes renovating an unused center in Friley Hall, expanding The Hub on central campus and expansion of some dining centers such as Conversations.

Another issue due to growth that Leath addressed was a lack in housing for students.

“I don’t know that we necessarily have an issue with graduate housing, but I think we have an issue in general,” Leath said.

He went on to say that 700 more beds were added to Frederickson Court after new buildings were finished. Another dorm is being added near Buchanan Hall for undergraduate students, as well.

Breckinridge Land Acquisition is also planning to add a housing complex near the Ames Middle School, despite a lack of approval from the Ames city council. Gilbane is also planning to construct an apartment complex on the west side of Lincoln Way, which Leath said would provide housing that graduate students would be the most interested in.

In total, Leath said there would be nearly 2,500-3,000 more beds next year.

Leath also mentioned that the Board of Regents’ efficiency review, for which a public forum will be held April 1.

“I don’t want that to be negative. A lot of people hear efficiency and they think cuts,” Leath said.

The review will look to see if funding is being managed as efficiently as possible, as well as to consolidate or reorganize university programs if necessary.

Leath said he believes that the consulting company conducting the review, Deloitte, will be as open and welcome to public and student opinions as possible during the review in order to best serve the university.

A senator for GPSS also inquired about the Iowa State center which includes the Scheman Building, Fisher Theater and Stephens Auditorium. In order to renovate the Scheman building and add additional space, a plan was made between the city of Ames and Iowa State to split the $38 million cost.

At the beginning of March, the city of Ames held a referendum to see if Ames citizens would approve higher property taxes to subsidize their half of $19 million. Citizens voted no for the renovated convention center, meaning Iowa State would pay for the renovations alone.

“There are no immediate plans by us to enlarge and renovate Scheman to the $38 million number,” Leath said. “By the same token, Scheman is kind of tired. We are looking at a number to make Scheman first class without adding additional space.”