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Editorial: Precious lands

Sept. 24, 1996


Precious land

University should raze old school

to make space for services building

The issue:

The old Kirk Wilson Special Education school sits on a valuable piece of land on the edge of campus.

Our view:

The University should raze the building to make space for a much-needed student services building; at the same time, an adequate facility should be provided for Alpha Phi Omega.

The unobtrusive building sits on the northeast edge of campus. Joggers on the Bear Trail might notice it as they cross over Second Street. Baylor Landing apartment dwellers might look at it as they leave their complex through the gates. Students might even notice it as they park in the lot adjacent to North Russell.

But what really is the purpose to this one-story brick building that closely resembles a Waco school? On official University maps, it is called Student Center Annex. But we guarantee you'll never find a regent or a Coke Hour here ­ even if Barfield Drawing Room is under construction. Kirk Wilson Special Education School, as it was formerly known, was purchased by the University from Waco Independent School District in January 1983. Since then, it has served a handful of purposes, but its only current tenants are Alpha Phi Omega and miscellaneous items in storage. The music school at one time had a piano repair facility in the kitchen area. However, the other rooms of building are in a poor state of repair and cannot be effectively used by student groups.

At the University, where land is precious, the question has been raised: 'Why not just tear it down to make room for parking or another building?' The answer: asbestos. Ken Simons, business manager and assistant vice president for the University, said asbestos removal was looked into a few years ago, but the price tag was around $50,000. It's a lot of money in one sense, but at Jerusalem on the Brazos, we spend $595,000 to retrofit the administration building to make it more 'cozy' for administrators while moving services that students use on a daily basis across the Interstate 35 superhighway to Clifton Robinson Tower.

Look at it this way: $50,000 equates to about five students at about $10,000 a year. Since this year brings the highest enrollment ever at the University, surely there is a fund somewhere that could be used to remove asbestos, a common old-building plague. One of the few great things about asbestos is its longevity ­ it is not going away.

Though there is no timetable, the future of the old Kirk Wilson building is certain: demolition. Simons said the site will house a proposed student services building with functions that will soon find homes in the Robinson Tower such as registration, advisement and student retention. We think that is a great plan for the site, but a little too late.

Before beginning the renovation of Pat Neff Hall, the administration and regents should take the necessary steps to remove asbestos and raze the Student Center Annex with the intention to have a home ready for advisement, registration and retention when they leave Pat Neff this spring.

In defense of APO's current tenant status, the university should provide a working and adequate facility for the group to utilize.

The University should move quickly and decisively with the future of the Student Center Annex. As the campus continues to grow, this small parcel of land will become an important asset.

The Kirk Wilson Special Education school probably served its time well with WISD, and it has provided APO with valuable space to work. Now is the time to tear it down and erect a student services facility on the main campus. Even if we can't get that far, at least the University should change the 'official' name of it. After all, a building that is inaccessible to the general student population really isn't a Student Center.

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