By Katelyn Schneider
Arts and Entertainment Editor
Jacksonville State University is where students are going but not staying over the weekends. This sleepy college has plans to make its campus more exciting.
The plan to increase the desire to be at JSU includes plans to improve housing and to add facilities that the students will benefit from. JSU’s campus may be undergoing several future developments, but the cost of attendance is not expected to change drastically, according to Beehler.
Instead, JSU’s tuition will lower some and balance with fees.
“We’re trying to balance the fees and the tuition, but the goal is to try to keep the tuition as low as possible,” Beehler said.
The students will notice an increase in fees for certain developments, but students already agreed to some such as the fee for the student rec center, according to Beehler.
The fee for the center, announced at the Board of Trustees meeting in October, is set a $150 per semester.
“Students don’t mind paying for things as long as they know what it’s for,” Beehler said in reference to all fees.
Student fees are not the only method funding future developments, according to both Brigham and Beehler. They said money is being collected through fundraising, donations, refunding of bonds, and through Three Ps. Brigham identified Three Ps as Public Private Partnerships.
Just the refunding of bonds is expected to save the university about $5 million, according to Beehler.
“We’re trying to get private money to supplement internal money for all the projects,” Beehler said.
There is going to be a balance between the developments that are made and the costs for them because the happiness and potential success of JSU students are important, according to Beehler.
“We’re being real fiscally responsible,” Beehler said.
One of the major developments the university is working on that is expected to generate excitement is a new student recreational center.
The new student rec center is absolutely necessary to making JSU more than a suitcase college, according to Beehler.
“It’ll make students want to stay here on the weekends,” Beehler said after pointing out that students tend to dislike what the Stephenson gym has to offer.
The students, faculty, and staff of JSU will decide what the new rec center will offer, according to Jim Brigham, director of internal audit/risk management for the university. Surveys were sent to everyone during the last week of September, so students and others could “indicate what their issues are and what their interests are,” he said.
Some students are not interested in the rec center at all. JSU junior Katie Cline thinks JSU should make improvements in other areas.
“I’m not opposed to a rec center—IF we didn’t have more important things that needed done. But right now, our priorities are skewed,” Cline said by email. “You don’t send video games to third world countries where they don’t have access to clean water.”
Other students are excited about the development. They consider the gym in Stephenson to be a turn off, according to Beehler.
After the surveys are reviewed, steps to begin construction can be made. The company consulting with JSU on the project in Brailsford and Dunlavey.
Joe Culloms, one of the company’s employees working on the project said JSU shows potential, and a facility like the center could be transformative for student life.
“There’s really a desire to see JSU offer a more rich campus life experience, and a facility like this would really give students a reason to stay on campus and stay over the weekend,” Culloms said.
Brailsford and Dunlavey are excited about the project, and JSU’s leaders only strengthen that, according to Culloms.
“Without fail, JSU has been responsive and a great partner,” Culloms said.
JSU students are likely to stay at the university over the weekends if they are comfortable with their living area, which is one reason university officials plan to improve housing.
Sparkman Hall is currently the first residence hall that is being looked at for renovations, but it will not be the only dorm to get improvements, according to Beehler.
Sparkman was closed for the 2015-2016 school year because there were plans to renovate the entire inside of the building. However, due to enrollment increasing, the second floor was renovated and currently houses students, according to Beehler. He said the future plan for Sparkman and other residence buildings is to turn the typical dorms into more suite-like apartments.
“Student’s these days don’t like the kind of dorms that I went to when I was an undergraduate,” Beehler said with a laugh. “We’re looking at doing renovations to some of the existing facilities with the idea that down the road a little ways, we’ll build new apartment-condo type student housing.”
Director of Residence Life Rochelle Smith is excited about the upcoming developments. Students have the right to decide what kind of housing they are given which is why constant surveys make their ways into student inboxes, according to Smith.
“We want to put our students first and the needs our students first,” Smith said.
She said doing so should decrease the amount of students going home on the weekends.
Students want housing that will make them comfortable, and they also want facilities that will keep them entertained, according to Beehler.
Another upcoming university project is mainly devoted to an organization people cannot miss. The largest organization on campus, The Marching Southerners, are getting a new practice field. It’s a project that will be put to good use by a deserving organization, according to Beehler.
“When most people think of the university, they think of the Southerners before they think of anything else,” Beehler said smiling. “I like to reward excellence like that.”
The Southerners influenced incoming freshman Madeline Hann’s decision to come to JSU.
“I’ve heard really wonderful things about the academics and the campus as a whole,” Hann said but quickly added, “Also, I really want to be a part of the Southerners’ Color Guard.”
The Marching Southerners have used the parking lot of Pete Mathews Coliseum since the early 1970s, according to Kenneth Bodiford, director of bands. Countless hours of practice have been spent of the asphalt that radiates heat in the first few months of the season. Members have suffered from shin splints and gotten sick from heat exhaustion as a result of the hard blacktop, according to Beehler. Bodiford said three ballerinas are unable to finish the marching season because of knee injuries caused by practicing on the asphalt. He said a new turf field will reduce these occurrences.
Bodiford is excited about the development for more than just the Southerners. He said this sort of development will keep students on campus because it will give them a place to have fun over the weekend.
“It’s really going to benefit not only the Southerners in the fall, but in the spring, it’ll benefit all the rest of the students here who participate in intramural sports,” Bodiford said.
The practice field should also benefit Beehler’s plan for increased enrollment, according to Bodiford.
“I think it’ll be great for recruiting,” Bodiford said in reference to the Southerners and students interested in intramural sports.
The field will be located in the open space between the Park Place II apartments and fraternity houses, according to Bodiford.
President John Beehler of JSU spent his first 15 months at the university observing where the university was and where its potential could take it.
“We’re looking at everything with a fresh eye asking what do we have, what don’t we have, etcetera,” Beehler said.
What Beehler noticed upon his arrival is that interest in the university was declining. However, that changed with the current semester. Enrollment rose 5.6 percent, which is the first increase the university has seen in six years, according to Beehler. He wants more though and has started the process of strategic planning to get there.
“We’ve done a lot in particular focused on the student and focused on making the student want to come here, making the student want to stay here and graduate, and make student life better for the students,” Beehler said.
For over 100 years, JSU served as a welcoming home for students and still does. The university transforms kids into adults. It puts the dreams of students within their reach.
Now JSU is increasing these opportunities through upcoming developments. It is becoming more of what students want while still giving them what they need.
Students are going to JSU, and JSU is going places.
Welcome home, Gamecocks.