The University of Wisconsin System should be able to manage construction projects on campuses rather than allowing bureaucracy to muddle up the works.
If it ever feels like UW-Madison is constantly under construction, it’s because UW-Madison is constantly under construction. In my three short years here, I’ve seen Library Mall revamped, the terrace and the Memorial Union made anew and I’ll be throwing my graduation cap while the SERF is being rebuilt.
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But, as needed as these renovations usually are, the fact of the matter is that construction, more often than not, can create quite the hassle for those within its vicinity. Quite the hot take I know, but you can’t deny that the best kind of construction is finished construction.
Apparently, all of the infrastructure construction for campuses included in the UW System is almost entirely managed by the state Department of Administration.
I guess the fact that the UW System is a conglomeration of public colleges funded heavily by state taxpayers means the state government should definitely have a say in what happens with these schools, especially considering the price tags these construction projects usually carry. But to have one state agency handling almost all of the UW System’s construction projects seems like a bit much.
Furthermore, state antics, I mean politics, have a pesky habit of delaying any sort of progress on these projects.
Take two recent projects referenced in a Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article regarding this whole subject: two residence halls, two schools, two different methods of construction management and two very different results.
UW-Lacrosse and UW-Platteville each constructed a new residence hall for their campus. UW-Lacrosse’s was built by the state while UW-Platteville’s was built by private methods. At the end of the day, the privately built hall in Platteville was finished 18 months sooner and a for a few million dollars cheaper.
I mean, it’s pretty hard to argue with quicker and cheaper, especially when construction on the SERF is going to take around two years to complete and carries a $236 million price tag.
So, it’s safe to say that construction management for the UW System definitely has some room for improvement.
The funny thing is the UW System Board of Regents has apparently been vying for more control over campus construction management for a while now.
The UW System recently submitted a proposal that would allow the Board of Regents to manage construction projects on facilities which have their own program revenues, such as residence halls and recreational centers.
Under this proposal, state agencies would only handle finances and funding for these projects while the Board of Regents would be entirely responsible for managing the projects.
Moving the responsibility of managing these projects to the Board of Regents, who are far more closely connected to UW System campuses than a state agency, should allow these projects to be planned, started and completed in a more efficient fashion.
Once the UW System can step outside the public domain of state-run projects and into the private sector, it can tap into the competition of capitalism. This can ideally allow the most efficient construction company to be hired which should lead to a quick and easy construction project.
The solution for increasing the efficiency of construction projects on UW System campuses is pretty clear, and as we wait for the decision regarding the UW System’s proposal, I can only wonder why this hasn’t happened sooner.
Phil Michaelson ([email protected]) is a junior majoring in biomedical engineering.