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WSU Vancouver Life Sciences Building nets $4.5 million budget increase

Members of the Washington State University Board of Regents voted unanimously to increase the budget of WSU Vancouver’s Life Science Building among other actions taken during their Friday meeting.

The $4.5 million budget increase is necessary to complete the project as envisioned in concert with cost-savings efforts.

“This is related to the original scope (of the project) and is directly related to the things you’ve been reading about in the news in terms of supply chain and costs increases,” Stacy Pearson, vice president of finance and administration, said during Thursday’s Finance and Compliance Committee meeting. She noted that WSU is seeing 12–15% cost increases related to the construction of the new building.

The increased costs will be addressed using a portion of WSU Vancouver’s reserves.

“I hate that we have to do it, but I do feel comfortable that we have the resources available to us on our campus to do it,” WSU Vancouver Chancellor Mel Netzhammer said Thursday.

University leaders and regents broke ground on the site of the Life Science Building in November. The building is expected to open in the fall of 2023. The vast majority of the project’s $64.3 million costs is being funded in the 2021–23 state capital budget, which allocated $52.6 million to help construct the building. 

Regents also authorized a long-term ground lease for the future site of the USDA-Agricultural Research Service/WSU Plant Bioscience Research Building on the Pullman campus. The new building will further WSU’s connection with USDA-ARS by enhancing research capabilities. Congress has approved $104.9 million in funding for the project. The site is located where Johnson Hall currently stands.

Revisions to WAC 504-26-045 Standards for Conduct for Students were also approved during Friday’s meeting in Tri‑Cities. The changes come in response to a letter from the U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights, which clarified regulations related to related to Title IX investigations at institutions of higher education.

As a result of a 2021 federal district court ruling, the department will no longer be enforcing a requirement that parties in a conduct case be allowed the opportunity to conduct cross-examination. In response, regents voted to approve the amended policy which eliminates the cross-examination requirement.

WSU Regents Chair Marty Dickinson also brought a motion to amend President Schulz’s contract to no longer require him to live in the president’s house, as well as to allow her to begin a comprehensive review of Schulz’s compensation. The motion received unanimous approval.

In February, Schulz announced that he and his wife Noel Schulz would be moving to another home in Pullman to allow Provost, Executive Vice President, and WSU Pullman Chancellor Elizabeth Chilton to take up residence with her family.

In his presentation, Schulz thanked faculty, staff and students for their continued assistance helping the university respond to the pandemic and outlined policy changes that’ve been made in recent weeks. As of March 12, masks will no longer be required inside WSU buildings, aside from medical facilities. The university is also no longer verifying vaccination status for those attending large events.

Schulz also highlighted five faculty being named Fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the return of the V.I.B.E.S. Conference and other large-scale events, and recent accomplishments by the women’s swimming and basketball teams.

Friday’s Board of Regents meeting, as well as Thursday’s committee meetings, were broadcast via Youtube. The Board of Regents will next meet in Spokane May 5–6.

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