By Brianna Bush
The Ferman Arts Center, the University of Tampa’s newest fine and performing arts building, and the Ars Sonora® musical bell sculpture, UT’s grand musical structure, have stirred an outcry among students.
“I definitely was frustrated when I found that they were building that bell [Ars Sonora®],” said Micah-Simone Durrant, senior sociology and communication double major at UT. “I’m not sure what kind of practicality that has for us as students or functionality; I don’t know how that’s a resource for us when there are plenty of other things like residence halls specifically that we need as students.”
UT receives fond reviews for their beautiful campus located in the heart of Downtown Tampa by The Princeton Review and visitors from all around. They take pride in maintaining their stature as “the campus is constantly evolving and growing, with approximately $575 million in new construction since 1998,” according to the UT website.
Many of the buildings already on campus, as well as the ones in progress, are funded by donations and sponsorships and are the result of strategic planning that is years in the making.
“UT constantly evaluates student needs both in the academic and co-curricular setting,” said Nora Jarmon, director of residence life. “Commencing on new building construction is a summation of a complex decision-making process that takes into account the student needs, as well as financial resources, university philanthropy, economic realities, and future forecasting and trends in higher education.”
There is a common misconception that students’ tuition dollars are being used to fund unnecessary buildings and construction updates.
“President Vaughn has a master plan on how the university is gonna be built and what construction is being built,” said Alyssa White, student government president. “It has to be planned very strategically just because we’re kind of landlocked in this little area of Tampa; we don’t really have a lot of space to expand our university just because we are in a city.”
Many other projects are funded by donors, including the Ferman family, the leading donors of the Ferman Arts Center, and the Naimoli Family, who funded several athletic complexes seen on campus. Many of the facilities and buildings funded by donors are named after them to commemorate them for their support.
“All of those buildings [the Cybersecurity center, the Fitness Center, the Ferman Arts Center and the Ars Sonora® musical bell sculpture] had donors, so for example, the Ars Sonora® is not coming from our tuition dollars, it’s from the Sykes family who donated this to our school,” said White. “So I think a lot of students kind of have this misconception where they think that their money is getting spent on this Ars Sonora® musical sculpture where it was completely donated by the Sykes family.”
The introduction of yearly construction projects despite the increasing housing demand has led students to question why new residence halls aren’t in the works.
To many students, it seems as though academic and co-curricular buildings are being built despite the need for residence halls. Palm Apartments, which was built in 2015 and further expanded in 2017 due to UT’s growing population, is the campus’s latest residence hall, but many have heard no word on new residence halls.
“I struggled a lot to find housing this semester and I know that there are a lot of freshmen who were in the same positions,” said Durrant.
Jarmon says that residence halls are in fact part of the plan.
“We believe that providing students with on-campus housing opportunities is a valuable part of a student’s higher education experience,” said Jarmon. “This is why more housing is currently in the campus master plan.”
With the weight of the housing crisis, the construction update came at a bad time.
“It’s kind of very strategically planned in advance; for the Ars Sonora®it had been planned for 10 years,” said White. “It’s not like they planned it a year ago when they knew that we had a housing crisis going on; this had been planned for years and years, this is just the time that they announced it.”
Student government and residence life understand the frustrations surrounding obtaining housing, but feel it is important to note that UT does not guarantee housing.
This was our first year where we didn’t have as much housing as needed for the freshman at least,” said White. “We never guarantee housing anyways to any freshmen coming in so I think that It was one of the first times we really had to stick to that policy [no-guarantee housing] so it was kind of hard to have people listen to that and have people deal with that especially during a pandemic.”
Although costly, UT’s housing philosophy supports the idea that “as students become more independent and move forward through their college experience, many look forward to transitioning to living off-campus.”
“I’m really grateful for the experience [of off-campus living] because I learned so much about how it costs to live by yourself and that is a big awakening that a lot of students don’t have living on campus,” said White.