MINUTES OF THE REGULAR FACULTY COUNCIL MEETING OF
November 17, 2008
Appendix B: Transcription of Mr. McGregor’s Presentation
Thanks, Paul, and David, thank you for having us today. As Paul mentioned, there are two University uses on the site, now graduate housing and the field lab. The purpose of the Brackenridge Tract is to be for the benefit of The University [of Texas] at Austin. Actually, there were three collaborative planning assignments given to us by the Regents. One was to work with the graduate student housing people, another with the field lab people, and a third one with the faculty in general. We started the first two, the graduate student housing and the field lab when we started our work, which was when everybody was away for the summer or at least many of the faculty were. It was, I guess, two or three weeks ago that we had our first with David at which point he invited us to come here. That’s going to be the beginning of the collaborative planning session with the faculty. We’ve asked David to gather those that he wishes for a regular series of meetings as we go forward.
Let me just spend a minute on each one of them. The graduate student housing, for those of you that don’t know the tract that well, [occupies] 53 acres of the so-called Brackenridge Apartments. There are 315 units of graduate student housing. The Colorado Apartments are on 20 acres, and they are 200 units of graduate student housing. Then, there’s something called the Gateway Apartments, which is at West Sixth Street near Lynn near Mathews Elementary. That’s another 200 units. So, there are 715 units in all, and what we’ve been trying to understand in this first six months is what the value of that graduate student housing is to the academic programs of The University of Texas at Austin. How can those units perhaps be more strategically used to reinforce the idea of getting the best students to The University of Texas at Austin? Then, what are the alternatives for providing those units, or maybe more units, or perhaps fewer units either on the site or perhaps on the Gateway site? The graduate student-housing group that the administration put together was run by Dean Rodriguez and included the Graduate Student Assembly [representatives]. We also met with the University Tenants Advisory Board, who represents the people who live on site. They came up with five or six options that they asked us to test, and we will begin that process now to try to test various alternatives of how to do the graduate student housing.
Likewise, the field lab. We’ve had a series of meetings with Dean Rankin, Larry Gilbert, Ed Theriot, and Kay Schwartz. We’ve spent this first six months trying to understand what the field lab is and what it should be in their view, looking ahead 10-20 years. This University is [to exist] for a long time; this plan has to be for a long time. We have asked them to look at their needs for the future, and they’re doing it actually in conjunction with the fundraising campaign that you’ve just announced. We’ve had over the last six months the ability to understand where the field lab is now and what it would need for the future if it stayed on site, and how it might possibly expand on site if there were more room to work. Obviously, if the Regents should eventually decide that the field lab needs to move, the second half of our assignment, which we’re about to start, is to find other places for the field lab that would be comparable. I think everybody is in agreement that a field lab is required to make this program stay in the top 10, but we are required also by our charge to the Regents to look at other sites if they decide that the field lab has to move in 2019.
Then, [there is] the third part, which is the discussion we started to have with David a couple of weeks ago. If you’re looking ahead 40-50 years, you have to ask the question, should some part of this tract be reserved for other academic uses in the future that we can’t know now. You’ve been around for a long time. You’re going to be around for a long time. Recently, we worked on Harvard expanding into 305 acres away from its campus in a town called Alston, [which was] something that [Harvard] didn’t imagine 10-15 years ago. How do you look ahead and try to understand what the nature is of the provision you should make for The University of Texas’ academic needs in the future? We spent a lot of time with Kevin Hegarty and with Pat Clubb to try to understand the campus as it is today--your campus as it is today—and what the opportunities are to grow on that campus. We’ve seen the reports from the THECB that says that The University of [Texas at] Austin is 1.4 million square feet under-built in its academic space, which sort of reinforced something that David had told us in terms of the issue of trying to find classrooms for the many sections that you’re trying to provide now. One of the issues that I hope you’ll take up in the work that we do with you in the future is some way of understanding how to address the issue of the academic needs of UT Austin in space terms. When we did the master plan for Yale, Rick Levin said, “don’t do a master plan--do a framework plan. I don’t know what the academic opportunities 10 years from now are going to be. What I want you to do is identify a lot of sites so that when the academic decision comes to us, we’ll have a land bank of sites that we can use.” We’re trying to understand the main campus, we’re trying to understand Pickle, and then we’re trying to understand what if anything should be reserved here for future academic use. That is part of what I hope we’ll be about with David and the rest of you over the next several months.
I would amend a little bit of something that Paul said. We have certainly gotten to the point of understanding the graduate student housing—what it is. We’ve certainly gotten to the point of understanding the field lab, what it is and what Dean Rankin and others would like to do with it. The collaborative planning process, however, is going to be ongoing through the next six months as we look at the options. Because, in addition to the evaluators that we will try to understand, which are based on the design principles that Paul mentioned, we want feedback from those user groups as we go along in order to see how the work that we’re doing meets peoples’ needs and hopes. That’s a specific part of what we’re doing. It is sort of separate from the major public meetings that Paul is leading and that Beverly is facilitating. It’s a series of one-on-one meetings with the user groups to try to understand how we can make the Brackenridge Tract work for the University over a long term.
David, I think that’s sort of it, but we’d be glad to answer questions if that would be good.
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