Admins talk changes, semester goals with Herald

Jacob Dick

For the first time since fall 2015, Herald editors met with a full administrative council to discuss dining services contracts, residence hall renovations and more.

In the spring, the administrative council canceled the traditional meeting and met only with Ransdell at the beginning of last semester. This semester, Herald editors met with President Gary Ransdell, Provost David Lee, Chief Enrollment and Graduation Officer Brian Meredith, Chief Facilities Officer Bryan Russell, Athletic Director Todd Stewart and several of the vice presidents in charge of finances, technology, student affairs and policies.

Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Ann Mead made a brief update on WKU’s process of making a new 20 year contract for dining services on campus. WKU’s current contract with Aramark will expire June 30 of next year.

“We have released what is called an RFP, a request for proposals, and hosted a meeting with potential bidders, where 3 bidders showed up,” Mead said.

According to a timeline provided by Mead, companies will have until October 7 to submit proposals and a contract should be awarded by winter break. The company selected for the dining services contract will be expected to fund the renovation and expansion of the Garrett Conference Center as well as partnering with the Student Life Foundation for in-dorm restaurants.

The council was asked if resident hall dining facilities were a priority for the services contract and Student Life Foundation plan because of the growing trend on other campuses such as the University of Kentucky.

“We want to remain competitive in attracting students to our campus,” Ransdell said. “We always want to be mindful of what the trends are and that our campus is shaping that curve rather than following what someone else is doing.”

Brian Kuster, vice president for student affairs and executive director of the WKU Student Life Foundation, also outlined plans for the forthcoming Hilltopper Hall to be constructed in the valley area of campus.

“This is a swing building, we’re building it first so we don’t lose beds,” Kuster said. “It will be about a 400 bed building.”

Kuster said once Hilltopper Hall was completed, the Student Life Foundation would focus on demolishing and replacing Bemis Lawrence and Barnes Campbell Hall at the bottom of the hill.

“This 10-year-plan not only creates new beds, but replaces old ones that now have community style bathrooms,” Kuster said.

The council was asked whether tailgating was expected to return to the South Lawn once the valley is closed in by a resident hall. Ransdell said tailgaters have been and will continue to be welcome to the South Lawn area, but Kuster added there may be some difficulty transporting large amounts of gear since vehicles are prohibited from that area.

Regarding athletics, Stewart discussed the rumored additions to the Big 12 athletic conference could affect WKU in the future.

“Certainly the Big 12’s decision will start a domino effect … that being said, if they add between two and four people as is rumored, then obviously the conferences they take those schools from will be looking for replacements,” Stewart said. “We enjoy being in Conference USA, and we take conference membership very seriously. Being in Conference USA has been great, aligned with schools that offer competition and excite our fans but you also have to keep one eye open on the landscape.”

Kuster also shed light on the recent consolidations and moves from previous areas on campus, specifically the proposed Black Cultural Center and the creation of an Intercultural Student Engagement Center, or ISEC.

Kuster said the center was created after budget cuts and program consolidations in the Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion. The center was placed in DSU to give more prominence and availability to students. The Black Cultural Center proposed last semester to be in the old Sofia-Downing International Center building has also moved to the same office in DSU.

The Herald will continue to report on news from the meeting with administration as stories develop.

Reporter Jacob Dick can be reached at (270) 745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jdickjournalism.