News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 23, 2012

EDITORIAL: Removing towers would be major step forward for ISU

Campus could better use its building space

The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Sculptor Brandon Zebold was quite right Wednesday when he praised the grounds at Indiana State University as being “beautiful” and welcomed the campus as a home for his “ISU Sphere” installation.

A lot of people have been saying that about ISU for several months, even years — and they are right.

Increasingly, the Terre Haute campus is becoming more attractive, featuring more compelling architectural designs, more adaptive uses of buildings, more green space and pleasing landscape, more user-friendly appeal, more first-rate touches.

President Dan Bradley certainly has fast-tracked much of the action, often with his personal stamp of approval on designs and features. During his tenure, the campus has taken on a visual and functional appeal that is ongoing, cumulative and powerful. And in several cases, he has carried out the final steps of projects begun or envisioned by predecessors, such as Lloyd W. Benjamin III.

Two buildings that have opened this fall both add greatly to ISU’s appeal:

n Federal Hall, the renovated former post office and federal court building at Seventh and Cherry streets as home to the College of Business

n The John W. Moore Welcome Center, which overlooks Dede Plaza (fountain) and the Hulman Memorial Student Union, and which serves the Admissions Department and other functions in honor its namesake, ISU’s president before Benjamin.

Both buildings are not only great architectural repurposing projects but also truly state-of-the-art education and campus community centers.

Those buildings join other recent advancements such as the wondrous transformation, a few years ago, of the College of Education building, renovated around the remains of the old Lab School that was home to generations of Terre Haute students, elementary through high school; and the  jewel that remains the Student Recreation Center, a building that was an instant hit with students and continues to host heavy student and staff use as a vital and fun part of the campus’ personal health and recreation offerings.

Several residence hall projects have changed the old “dorm” image. Sandison and Pickerl halls are only recently reopened after year-long modernizations. Erickson Hall is in the works and should reopen in the fall, as the university seeks more bed space and student-lifestyle accommodations for its rising enrollment, the most involved, loyal and persistent of which often live on campus. Even-newer housing projects are soon to take place on Spruce Street, south of venerable Lincoln Quad, and downtown in an urban living, public-private arrangement.

All of the aforementioned building improvements are notable on another level: They are either renovated, repurposed, rejuvenated buildings (Federal Hall, Education Hall, Sandison, Pickerl, Erickson, Moore Welcome Center) or are new construction. None of those came from tearing down buildings, which had been a rap on ISU in recent years.

That makes the coming departure of Statesman Towers — built as residence halls and later homes, albeit inadequate ones, to the schools of business and education — a bit ironic. But those buildings’ square footage has been replaced with Education and Federal halls, and they must and should come down. No historic preservation is at risk with their being removed, except that the adjacent Eugene V. Debs Home and Museum must be protected. (If Bradley wasn’t referring to those twin buildings as being among the “ugly” ones he saw when he came to ISU, he should have. They are bunkers, drab, dank, dark.)

Those towers’ departure can make way for other projects — including several needed athletic facility upgrades — that are in the works and/or planning stages on the ISU campus.

This is at it should be. A former ISU president, Richard G. Landini, liked to say that a university is always in the stage of becoming. In this case, that becoming involves the campus’ becoming more attractive, approachable and usable.