President Skorton: Board approves moving forward on Milstein Hall

May 25, 2009

President David Skorton today issued the following statement after the board of trustees announced actions that include moving forward with construction of Paul Milstein Hall.

The Cornell Board of Trustees at its recent meeting unanimously supported my recommendation to proceed with the construction of Paul Milstein Hall. This has not been an easy decision, and I wish to thank my faculty colleagues on both sides of the debate for their personal commitment to the welfare of our community. In fact, I welcome their concerns, as they show that we all appreciate our responsibility as stewards of this great institution.

The decision to build Paul Milstein Hall now, while deferring the parking garage project, caps a decade-long struggle to address inadequate facilities of the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning and preserve the pre-eminence of the nation's top undergraduate architecture program. While we can agree to disagree about esthetics, we can no longer dismiss the jeopardy in which the accreditation of the college's two architecture programs has been placed by 10 years of lack of resolution. Without the appropriate accreditation, our students in architecture will not be able to work as architects.

The careful review of all capital projects during the construction pause has led us to postpone indefinitely $562 million in capital projects. The $55.5 million Milstein project was not spared close scrutiny. However, after reviewing both its proposed academic uses and funding, I was swayed by the programmatic imperative of securing the program's accreditation; by the reduction of over $12 million in costs we were able to achieve with the deferral of the parking garage; and, by the overwhelming support of the architecture faculty. The university will assume $12 million of the cost of the project, of which $7.6 million is debt. The remainder will be covered by the college and by philanthropy.

Every now and then, an academic unit must make an investment out of the ordinary. At such times, the university must support its colleagues in confronting these unusual challenges if we are, as a whole institution, to continue to excel and expand the extraordinary scholarly experience that is Cornell. This is one of those moments for the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning, and it is our collective responsibility to set aside our differences of opinion and join in support of the architecture faculty in sustaining a great Cornell program.

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