23.2.07

TIME FOR HOLLYWOOD TO STEP UP? The Northern Star discovers more deferred maintenance in the College of Visual and Performing Arts.

"The CL is for closet, not computer lab," said Alex Gelman, NIU director of the School of Theatre and Dance, while he pointed to the door of a computer lab that was formerly a janitor's closet in the Stevens Building.

"We're making the best of the situation we have," said Anna Goller, scene shop supervisor at the Stevens Building.

First occupied in 1959, students and administrators feel the Stevens Building is long overdue for renovations.

"You can only polish a turd so much," Goller said.

The building houses three theaters and several offices and classrooms for anthropology and theater departments.

"It's pretty sad when the condition of your building makes it hard to learn," Adam Liston, a scenic design graduate student, said. "We have leaks that blow up our computers."

In the absence of funding to fix the building, Goller said students and staff invest their own time doing patch-up work.

That building is on the main campus, well to the west of the also-dilapidated sculpture studio. I'm not sure what it says about contemporary higher education that the theater program's reputation remains strong despite the conditions.

Despite the conditions described by those using the Stevens Building, NIU's theater program is considered by many to be one of the top in the country.

"They're here for the training; the teaching is superb," Gelman said. Liston said he had a class in the lab that was so overcrowded that two students had to sit out in the hall and rest their own laptops on TV trays.

"You have no idea how distracting it is when you've got people sitting on the floor with laptops," Liston said. "When the teacher has to walk up to talk about something on the projection he has to step over students."

That is, in times in which the head football coach meets with potential recruits anywhere but his current office. He will have an office more suited to making the proper impression on seventeen-year-olds with good times in the 40 yard dash once the new locker room opens.

At University Council on Jan. 24, President John Peters said renovations on the Stevens Building have been a top priority for the university for upwards of a decade. However, Peters said the lack of a capital bill to provide money delayed the necessary renovations. Even though NIU has not received a capital bill in four years, Peters said he still hopes to receive one from the state.

"The reputation of the school is strong because of the quality of its faculty and success of its alumni," Gelman said. "It's hard to imagine where we would be if we had an adequate facility."

The capital argument is incompletely convincing. On the one hand, the university did manage, by refinancing its existing construction bonds, to build a parking deck, some administrative buildings, and an extension to the physics and chemistry building, which was also crowded. On the other hand, the locker room, for all the misplaced emphasis it might represent, is the consequence of generosity large and small by satisfied alumni. The new building for the College of Business, for all the infringements on freedom of expression disguised as modeling business aesthetics, is also the consequence of such generosity. Where's Hollywood?

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