Board Approves Plans for Union Space in Hull

Arkansas Tech University will invest $4.9 million in renovating the former swimming pool area in the Hull Physical Education Building for the purposes of converting it into a student union space.

The ATU Board of Trustees approved plans for the union renovation during its meeting at the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center on Thursday, Oct. 17.

Funding for the project will come from student fees dedicated to the project, ATU’s educational and general unappropriated fund balance and the university’s food services reserve.

Construction on the Hull Building remodel will begin in spring 2020 with completion anticipated during the fall 2020 semester.

Once finished, the Hull Building student union will include a banquet hall, gaming area, student lounge and catering kitchen. The university will remodel 17,000 square feet of interior space as result of the renovation.

The Hull Building remodel is part of a two-phase plan to address the student union and recreation center needs of the university. Arkansas Tech is planning to construct a new student union and recreation center on the plot of land currently occupied by the W.O. Young Building. It is anticipated the new building will open in fall 2022.

Long-term plans for the remodeled space in the Hull Building call for it to become a conference center once the new student union and recreation center opens.

Trustees also took action Thursday on Williamson Hall, which was damaged during an April 3, 2019, fire.

The board authorized the hiring of SCM Architects for limited purposes to evaluate the scope and cost of renovating Williamson Hall to completion as well as the likelihood of maintaining the facility’s historical designation.

Once the evaluation is complete, the board will use that information to make a decision on whether to renovate the existing Williamson Hall or pursue a partial demolition and rebuild.

In other business on Thursday, the ATU Board of Trustees approved:

*utilizing $974,756 from a reserve account and $196,688 from the University Commons cash fund to call the 2017 Bk Oz taxable housing bond, saving the university $438,987 in interest costs;

*renewal of health, dental, vision, life and disability coverage for ATU employees and eligible retirees for calendar year 2020 with Arkansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield and USAble;

*establishment of eight provisional positions that will provide SafeCare evidenced-based home visiting services as a subcontractor with Arkansas Children’s Hospital with funding provided by a grant from the Arkansas Division of Human Services and its Division of Children and Family Services;

*a letter of notification from the ATU College of Arts and Humanities and the ATU Department of Behavioral Sciences proposing an 18-hour Certificate of Proficiency in psychology effective fall 2020;

*a letter of notification from the ATU College of Arts and Humanities and the ATU Department of Communication and Journalism proposing a 12-hour Certificate of Proficiency in performance that would be molded to fit the student’s area of concentration in public speaking, debate, broadcasting, music performance, teaching or the theatrical arts effective fall 2020;

*a program proposal brought forth by the ATU College of Natural and Health Sciences and the ATU Department of Mathematics for a new Bachelor of Science degree in applied statistics effective summer 2020;

*a request by the ATU College of Education to change the name of the Master of Science degree in college student personnel to become the Master of Science degree in student affairs administration effective summer 2020;

*a request to utilize funds left over from summer 2019 student housing projects to improve internet access at University Commons phase I, to enhance outdoor recreation, landscaping and site improvements in and around M Street Residence Hall, Wilson Residence Hall, Tucker Residence Hall, Brown Residence Hall, Turner Residence Hall and Paine Residence Hall and to perform repairs and renovations to bathrooms in Wilson Residence Hall;

*a recommendation from the ATU Department of Residence Life to remove the on-campus apartment deposit fee of $250 and require all housing contracts (residence halls and apartments) to have a $100 pre-payment beginning with all future contracts;

*revisions to the ATU facilities and properties naming policy brought forth by the ATU Division of Advancement;

*adoption of ATU Board of Trustees bylaws consistent with best practices set out by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges;

*revision of the ATU freedom of expression policy to make it consistent with the provisions of Act 184 of the 92nd Arkansas General Assembly;

*and an updated version of the ATU staff handbook.

In personnel matters, the board approved the employment of the following new, full-time employees:

*Kirby Austin, support services manager in the Office of Information Systems, effective Oct. 1, 2019; Laura Bewley, case manager in the Division of Student Affairs, effective Aug. 14, 2019; Briana Byers, assistant director of disability services, effective Oct. 1, 2019; and Taylor Gamez, assistant director of athletic communications, effective Oct. 1, 2019.

Trustees approved the promotion of Carrie Harris Phillips to director of the ATU Office of Marketing and Communication. She has held that position on an interim basis since July 2018.

The board approved the termination of Dr. Nansong Wu, assistant professor of electrical engineering, effective Aug. 14, 2019.

A notice of resignation from David Aaron Sorrells, visiting workforce education welding instructor at Arkansas Tech Career Center, was accepted effective Oct. 31, 2019.

Trustees approved retirement requests from three ATU employees.

Dr. Glen Bishop, associate professor of recreation and park administration, will conclude his 18-year tenure on the ATU faculty Dec. 31, 2019. Steve Mullins, director of athletics, retired effective Aug. 26, 2019. Tammy Verkamp, workforce education faculty for English at ATU-Ozark Campus, will retire effective Dec. 11, 2019. She has served on the faculty since 1997.