Year of changes
A&M progresses through turbulent 2011-2012
Published: Monday, May 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07
One word to describe the 2011-2012 academic year: change. Students have seen the beginning of outsourcing at the University level, rallied with GOP candidate Ron Paul, dodged traffic cones around construction on Wellborn Road and taken a nap in a newly renovated Memorial Student Center.
From building face-lifts to road construction projects on and around the Texas A&M campus, this year has been privy to construction.
There were five construction projects that characterized the year: the Wellborn Road Grade Separation Project, the College of Veterinary Medicine Building, the new Liberal Arts & Humanities Building and two recently completed projects, the Memorial Student Center and Blue Bell Park.
The $34 million Wellborn Road Grade Separation Project that has forced Wellborn traffic into a daily bottleneck started Nov. 11 and is scheduled to be finished August 2013.
“The purpose of the project is to eliminate the hazards of crossing the tracks and Wellborn Road by local University vehicular traffic and pedestrians,” said Bill Scott, construction project manager for the A&M System. “[It] will consist of two underpasses running parallel and adjacent to the existing Old Main Drive.”
On Dec. 16, 2010, the University broke ground on a new Liberal Arts & Humanities Building.
“It’s nice that A&M is expanding for liberal arts, when it is usually known as a science and engineering University,” said Adriana Gramsas, sophomore psychology major.
The Olsen Field project was a planned strategy for the renovation of the Texas A&M baseball facilities. Olsen Field served Texas A&M baseball for the past 31 years. The new baseball facility was named “Blue Bell Park” after Texas A&M former students and Blue Bell creameries pledged a $7 million gift to the 12th Man Foundation’s Championship Vision capital campaign for the renovation and expansion of Olsen Field.
Parker Ray, pitcher for the Aggie baseball team and junior sports management major, said Blue Bell Park is the best facility in the country.
“It’s a blast being able to play in front of all the fans,” Ray said. “It’s nice having everything all in one place, not to mention the big screen televisions and the Blue Bell ice cream.”
News of an outsourcing plan for many major facilities currently provided directly by Texas A&M University leaked in late February.
After the official decision had been made to send out various RFPs (request for proposals), the University became more open about the process of outsourcing and what to expect in the coming months.
The main University facilities in question are dining, maintenance, landscaping and custodial. Once a company responds with a bid, a process that could take two to six months, the University can then compare savings and quality to assure the best decision for the University.
A committee was appointed by both Sharp and Loftin to handle the proposals and decisions. Some student senate members were concerned with the lack of student representation.
“This is a change that will significantly affect students,” student senator and senior chemical engineering major Andrew Jancaric said. “I do not think that having only one student voice on a nine-member, non-binding advisory committee is enough of a student perspective for this very important change.”
As of the present date, a formal decision on companies have been chosen has yet to be reached. The appointed decision committee plans to meet several times, and the entire RFP process could stretch into late August, according to Vice President for Administration Rodney P. McClendon.
Politics has been at the forefront of conversation in 2012, with everything from Texas A&M’s on-campus elections to Ron Paul’s impassioned speech in Rudder to U.S. troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Campus elections were a roller coaster of activity. Among other controversies, Student Body President John Claybrook was disqualified for going over budget, before the Judicial Court overturned this decision.
“There is an appeals process for a reason,” said Claybrook, junior finance major. “The Election Commission is never going to be infallible — that is why there is a Judicial Court. Although there was a lot of negative press, the process prevailed and I have confidence in this process as we move forward to next year.”
On the national scene, Republican candidates have been campaigning through the primary process, taking equal hits at each other and at President Barack Obama.
“It is interesting to hear the different perspectives and rhetoric of President Obama compared to the Republican candidates,” said John Leask, junior industrial distribution major.
Texas A&M hosted Republican candidate Ron Paul on April 10. Paul delivered his presidential platform and national message to an overflow crowd in Rudder Tower.
At the international level, issues such as the United Nations’ peacekeeping initiatives to the growing Chinese economy to troops’ gradual withdrawal from Afghanistan have garnered U.S. politicians’ attention.