“It’s like watching a storm brewing in the distance.”
At least, that is how David Creamer, Miami University’s vice president of finance, explained the effects of the financial crisis on the university.
In a statement released to students, faculty and staff Oct. 20, Miami President David Hodge said the university would be making financial cuts for the upcoming fiscal year, including a freeze on hiring new faculty, eliminating unnecessary costs and postponing certain construction projects.
According to Creamer, one of the biggest changes in campus construction concerns the new student center. The center was slated to be finished in 2013, but has now been postponed one year.
The university approved plans for the center early this year. However, with the university still in the midst of the fundraising process, Creamer said the start date was the most logical delay.
“The president will talk about the Bicentennial Center in a communication to the university later this week,” Creamer said. “For now, we’re looking to have it completed in the latter part of 2014.”
Although construction of the student center has been postponed, the fundraising efforts will still be in full gear, according to Jayne Whitehead, vice president of University Advancement. Whitehead said fundraising is dependent on several small gifts from a large number of alumni, and therefore should not be too negatively affected by the economic crisis.
“My theory is that the economy affects how people feel about giving and money,” Whitehead said. “But, these gifts of income will not be too affected since we are pursuing such modest, but symbolic, donations.”
Whitehead said she has high hopes for alumni and student giving in the 2009 bicentennial year.
“Next year is a unique year in Miami’s history, and we want to take advantage of that,” she said. “We want to connect alumni and students, and the bicentennial center is a great way to do that.”
However, she does admit the financial crisis may negatively impact some donations.
“Nobody knows what is going to happen,” she said. “What we have been hearing from major contributors is that they are not saying ‘no,’ they are just saying ‘not now.'”
The student center is not the only construction delay. Other projects connected with the student center-including the demolition of Gaskill, Rowen and Culler halls and the renovation of Kreger Hall-have also been postponed, according to Creamer.
“Some of the things we will monitor will be with what will happen with in-state support,” Creamer said. “We know there has been some loss in the investment and we are slowing down some of the projects. We are taking a little more time to do our planning and reach final conclusions. We are exercising more caution given recent events.”
However, projects that have already been funded will continue as planned, including the renovations of Upham and Laws halls.
“Some projects are going ahead,” Creamer said. “We received state support in the spring and we will use the funds appropriated by the state of Ohio as they were planned.”
Creamer said the Farmer School of Business would also not be affected by the financial policies, as it is also fully funded.
“The business school will be completed in the fall,” Creamer said. “Everything has been funded, so nothing will by negatively affected by the current situations.”
The actual maintenance of the campus will also remain unaffected, Creamer said.
“Our goal is to continue to maintain the campus as it has historically been maintained,” he said.
Overall, the university is exercising extreme caution while forming future construction plans, according to Creamer. With an unknown future, Miami is preparing for a storm of negative financial effects.
“How the financial issues play out in the next couple of months will affect the rest of the country,” Creamer said. “We will feel the effects in the next couple of months, and we are beginning to prepare for those effects and be cautious. It’s like watching clouds looming in the distance, but the actual storm has not yet arrived.”