Kaitlyn Tambasco, Managing News Editor
Since the retirement of Utica College Chaplain, Father Paul Drobin, plans for the Newman Center had been up in the air. Now, plans for the building are in the works as this past place of worship will be turned into an intercultural and student organization center. One of the highlights is meeting rooms for organizations, as well as other features.
Earlier last semester, UC received their largest bequest in its history, which was 2.35 million dollars from the Lotis B. Howland Trust. Some of the gift will provide funding for an expansion to the Gordon Science Center, while some will go to the project regarding the Newman Center, according to the UC website.
Vice President for College Infrastructure & Chief Information Officer Matthew Carr took his current role this past October but from his understanding, planning for the Newman Center began last Spring.
He said the conversation began with student groups that were put together by the Office of Student Affairs. This gave students the opportunity to voice what they wanted to see with the renovations in the Newman Center. Over the summer, architects visited the campus to share drawings and discuss budgeting.
Currently, the drawings for the renovation are about 99% done, according to Carr.
“It’s mostly just a renovation of the existing building and there’s also a plan to expand one corner of the building,” Carr said. “This facility would not be specific to any student group or student organization, any religion, it’s really to be multi purpose, multi functional and intercultural so the idea was to make it as flexible of use for all student backgrounds and all organizations as possible.”
Carr said at this point there are not any more plans for another designated place for worship on campus but said worship, prayer and meditation can all still be done in this space.
He said he hopes the space will provide an opportunity for students to have a lot more meeting space for their student organizations as well as more lounge and casual space.
“I’ve heard from different student forums that there are not a lot of spaces where students can simply go and relax, sit down in a comfortable location so we have the large multi purpose lounge there that will hopefully provide that,” Carr said. “I hope primarily it allows a vast number of our student organizations a place they can go and feel comfortable and that’s available to them and not have to work around reservations made for academic purposes and have a space that’s designated for students and that’s what I hope students will find beneficial to the renovated building.”
Carr said originally the hope was to have renovations done by next fall but said it is in a waiting game until the funding is available to the college. He said until the funding is available, the project cannot move forward. Also at this point, the building does not have a new name.
“By the end of the spring semester, we hope to have those funds and then we will start to bid a general contractor and those types of things,” Carr said. “So I don’t think considering we don’t have the funding currently, it will be open for the fall of 2020 but I’m hopeful. We are really at the mercy of when that funding comes in at this point.”
He said the idea is that the architect will put together a bid package and it will go out through an RFB process so local construction firms and regional construction firms can then bid on the project. From then, the college will hire out a general contractor to then organize and be in charge of that construction and renovation.
Senior Vice President of Student Life and Enrollment Jeffery Gates explained more about why the former Newman Center was shut down.
Gates said that both Utica College and the Diocese of Syracuse, which oversees all Catholic Parishes and other places of worship, including the Newman Center Communities in Central and South Central NY have had a close partnership for more than 50 years.
“Through this partnership, the Diocese appointed Father Paul as well as the previous UC Chaplains and has resourced the Newman Center,” Gates said. “In anticipation of Father Paul’s retirement, the College and the Diocese began talking some time ago about the future of the Newman Center and assessing how it could best serve the UC community moving forward.”
According to Gates, the college is fortunate that Our Lady of the Rosary is, literally, within sight of the campus on Burrstone Road. In addition, the Diocese and the college made the joint decision to transfer ownership of the Newman Center building, which the Diocese has owned since the building was first constructed to the college.
When senior Mattie Cutler attended Leadership Weekend in the Fall of 2018, she did a project on the Newman Center, which was about how the center could be put to use.
“I think the idea for the space was a touchy subject because people feel differently about religion and there will be religions left out,” Cutler said. “Using the space was touchy because some may have viewed it as a church while others will be so caught up with school work that it wouldn’t be used.”