Governor budget proposal to possibly give temporary buildings a permanent home

Whitt Van Tassell

For over 20 years Georgia Southern University has housed the not-so-temporary Forest Drive Building, home to mostly foreign language and history classes. That may soon change with Governor Nathan Deal’s newest budget proposal, currently under review by the state legislature.

Thursday, Feb. 12, speaking at a monthly meeting of Faculty Senate, President Keel provided a glimpse of a brighter future.

“For Georgia Southern there are two significant pieces… in the [Governor’s] budget recommendation, one is $33.6 million for a multipurpose academic classroom building,” Keel said.

Process and Production of the New Building 

The proposed new 105,000-square-foot classroom building will sit between the existing Carroll and IT Buildings on the site of the current Military Sciences Building. President Keel stated that it would potentially replace four temporary buildings: Interior Design, Fashion Merchandising, the Family Consumer Science Buildings and the Forest Drive Building. It is predicted to total 76,000-square-feet. ROTC received $9.5 million in 2014 to build a new building elsewhere on campus, a process with an expected groundbreaking six to nine months in the future.

The monies allocated for GSU in the proposed budget must pass rigorous scrutiny in both the state House and Senate before they are included in the final draft of the budget.

“The good news is when the Governor puts things into his budget recommendation, it is very unusual and very rare, although possible, that those items are removed or significantly altered,” Keel said.

“Rep. Tankersley, Rep. Burns, Rep. Parrish and I, and all of Georgia Southern’s friends in the Legislature, will be focused on the classroom project being in the final appropriations bill,” Jack Hill, State Senator of Georgia Southern’s District 4 and chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said

Hill emphasized the need for vigilance in explaining the need for the building at GSU to other members of the House and Senate, especially with issues like transportation funding at play. The final budget is expected to be released April 2, and, if that budget includes funding for the new Classroom building, ground is expected to be broken within one year, according to President Keel.

New Building Expectations

“What excites me are the new possibilities offered by a new physical space,” Dr. Jacek Lubecki, Director of the Center for International Studies and a current resident of Forest Drive, said. Lubecki envisions a space where International Studies and International Trade Majors, as well as international students and returning study abroad students, can socialize and form a sense of community.

“The Center for International Studies wants to be a home for those students; we have very limited space for various activities,” Lubecki said. “Right now we have them at Russell Union, but the possibility of having them in our own space raises all sorts of interesting prospects of new synergies and new activities created for those students.”

Dr. Eric Kartchner, Chair of the Department of Foreign Languages, offered caution for students hoping to take their language classes in a shiny new space.

“A new classroom building doesn’t necessarily mean that the people that currently occupy the ‘trailers’ would be transferred into a new building. In fact, there’s a good possibility we wouldn’t be,” Kartchner said.

Both Kartchner and Lubecki said they very much value physical proximity with the departments currently housed within Forest Drive and hope that in any new building or shuffling of spaces the Departments of Foreign Languages and International Studies will remain close, if not adjacent.