The Million-Dollar Question
On Wednesday, The Spectrum published a story about over $1 million currently sitting in reserves for a North Campus health center that never came to fruition. The $1,075,000 reserve is an accumulation of a $3.50 fee added to the compressive fee in 2005, which continues to be included in every student's tuition.
Barbara Ricotta – the head of the committee recently formed regarding the health center and the vice president of student affairs – spoke with The Spectrum on Friday to answer follow-up questions about the existence, history and future of this fee, and about the prospects for the North Campus health center.
The Spectrum first contacted Ricotta about the fee on Jan. 31, and a week later, Ricotta stated in an email that a committee was "just being formed." On Tuesday, Ricotta supplied The Spectrum witha list of committee members.
Ricotta said the committee's recent formation had nothing to do with The Spectrum's questions.
The space currently being considered for the health center is what is now the Richmond cafeteria, which will be vacated once the Red Jacket dining hall is complete.
Ricotta said she was informed in December that the Richmond cafeteria might work because it hasn't been reassigned.
Ricotta says Dennis Black, vice president for university life and services, asked her to move forward with a committee. Ricotta couldn't recall an exact date and time she was asked to do this, but she said it was at one of her weekly meetings with Black in January.
Since the publication of Wednesday's article, the committee has met and has plans to meet again after spring break, according to Ricotta.
Ricotta said the committee will examine if the Richmond space is large enough, how much it will cost to remodel the space, and if it is the "right location."
"I'm going to say by the end of the semester we will have a sense if we are going to need to go out and hire an outside architect to design [the health care center], or whether the [Richmond cafeteria] space can be used," Ricotta said. "My hope is by the end of the semester we will have a good sense of whether square footage-wise and space-wise, we will be able to do it there."
Students can expect to continue paying the $3.50 fee.
If the health center ends up targeted for Richmond, the fee will be used to pay off a loan Ricotta hopes to take from the campus. One million dollars is not nearly enough to rehab the Richmond area, according to Ricotta.
The Richmond cafeteria is now the fourth place considered for the health center in the last seven years. The Spectrum incorrectly reported that it was the first. When the fee was initially instated, it was to turn what is now the Wellness Center in the Student Union into an urgent care facility, according to Ricotta.
The Student Union space didn't work out – an ambulance would have trouble responding to that location.
"We would have had to take people [in need of medical attention] through the Student Union, and outside to the ambulance." Ricotta said. "We didn't feel like after we looked at it, that that would be the right thing to do."
After multiple spaces didn't work out, Ricotta said the university kept collecting the money because it always had planned on having a health center on the North Campus at some point in time.
UB 2020's master plan accounts for the possibility of a health center, in combination with a recreation center. But Ricotta said building a stand-alone health center is the number one goal, even though it's stated in the master plan.
Ricotta said she can understand the frustration students may have in regard to paying for a health center they will never see. In four years, each student will have paid $28 for the health center. Ricotta said she's never heard anyone complain about that.
It's the reality of the budgeting process, according to Ricotta.
"I think students were always hoping, and are still hoping, to get a health center on the North Campus." Ricotta said, "It's unfortunate it didn't happen in the time frame we had hoped for it, but the money will be used for exactly what we intended it to be used for."
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