See the Science Center?  How about K.J.? Yeah, our D*ck is Bigger.

By Knute Gailor ’13

Building projects have transformed Hamilton’s campus in the last ten years.  The recently named Edward and Virginia Taylor Science Center is state of the art, K.J. is a marvel of engineering (even though I still don’t quite know what a water feature is…), and Sadove, for all it lacks in functionality, is spectacular. 

But while we are undoubtedly lucky to have such incredible campus facilities, how have our buildings been paid for?  Are we building just to keep up with other schools?  Is it sensible for us to be developing our campus at the same time our tuition bills are consistently rising?  Hoping to learn more about how Hamilton goes about improving and maintaining its facilities, I asked Karen Leach, the College’s Vice President for Administration and Finance, to answer these questions.  Her responses surprised me, impressed me, and gave me confidence that Hamilton is mindful of its spending and committed to building sensibly.

According to Ms. Leach, Hamilton views campus building projects in the context of the College’s larger strategic initiatives.  Academic buildings like K.J. and the Taylor Science Center were improved to support high quality academic programs; residence halls have been updated to meet code requirements that ensure students’ safety; and energy saving improvements are being made all over campus to reduce the College’s carbon footprint.  In its bicentennial year, Hamilton is mindful that its facilities need to be around for the next two hundred years: updating aging buildings is a priority and most of the projects Steve Bellona’s emails kept us up to date on over the summer were preventative maintenance. (As a note, the Summer Construction Updates were the one reason I checked my email over the summer.) 

When I moved on to questions of money, I learned from Ms. Leach that Hamilton funds each building project differently.  While gifts from alumni and friends of the College paid for the Sadove Student Center in its entirety, K.J. was funded by a combination of gifts and money raised from the sale of tax-exempt bonds.  The Bristol Center has a unique endowment to pay for its upkeep, and the Wellin Art Museum’s construction is also paid for by gifts.

I was surprised to learn that building maintenance costs contribute minimally to tuition increases.  More than half of Hamilton’s budget goes to supporting more than six hundred full-time employees, and tuition increases reflect the rising costs of maintaining the campus in general – as Ms. Leach pointed out, even buying paper for the College is expensive.  (Who knew Paper-Cut could help keep our tuition down…should have known Dave Smallen knows what he is talking about.) 

So, as I see it, Hamilton is improving the campus sensibly.  Our buildings all serve great purposes and reflect our campus’ priorities.  Committees made up of students, faculty, and administrators play a part in every major building project, and the buildings most in need of updating have been improved first.  Projects like the Days-Massolo center show how the right facilities can contribute to improving the campus climate.  Steve Bellona and Bill Huggins even gave drinking helmets, I mean, hard hats, to those of us living in the Kennel that is Saunders this year.

While there is still work to be done (the library’s carpet comes readily to mind, although I’m convinced it’s still around to punish all those who try to study there hung-over on Sunday mornings…), Hamilton has ensured that we have tremendous facilities to learn in.  The generosity of Hamilton alumni is incredible, and we are improving and expanding our facilities when many other colleges are putting off much-needed repairs and cutting faculty positions to get by.  What’s more, the College admitted the class of 2015 without considering an applicant’s ability to pay.  In short, we haven’t been building to keep up with other schools – other schools have been building to keep up with us.  So yeah.  Our d*ck is bigger.