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Clayton State in waiting game for building funds

Money may exist for long-desired science facility

Clayton State University graduate Linda Hernandez works on an experiment in one of the school’s older science laboratories. University leaders are waiting to see if the Georgia General Assembly will let them have $16.5 million for a new science building this week.

Clayton State University graduate Linda Hernandez works on an experiment in one of the school’s older science laboratories. University leaders are waiting to see if the Georgia General Assembly will let them have $16.5 million for a new science building this week.

— It’s always hard to predict what will happen when items are mixed, whether they are chemicals or politicians.

Chemistry students at Clayton State University look to see what happens when they mix chemicals in their science classes. Meanwhile, school officials are waiting to see what will happen when state representatives and senators meet to decide the fate of funding for a new science building planned for the university.

The Georgia Senate added a $16.5 million line item to the state’s appropriations bill last week to pay for the new building. Since it wasn’t included in House of Representatives’ version of the bill, the building’s fate will be hashed out this week in a joint conference committee.

In the meantime, Clayton State officials are holding their tongues as they play a waiting game.

“I know this is something that’s happening, but I don’t think we’re in a position to say anything official about it at this point,” university spokesman John Shiffert said.

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File photo

A Clayton State University science lab sits unused between classes in this 2008 file photo. School officials have been pushing for a new science building for years to add more lab space, and they are now waiting to see if the Georgia General Assembly will OK a funding allocation for the proposed facility.

There is little time for the six-member conference committee to decide the fate of the science building funds because the General Assembly has to wrap up its work for the legislative year by midnight Thursday, otherwise known as Sine Die Day.

If the funding is approved, it would represent a breakthrough for Clayton State, which has been fighting for at least five years to get the state to OK spending millions of dollars to build a new science facility.

The fight dates back at least to the tenure of former Clayton State President Tom Harden, and current President Tim Hynes has continued to champion the cause. The key argument Harden and Hynes have always made is that the university does not have enough laboratory space for students to take science classes when they choose.

The University System of Georgia has regularly put in legislative request for funding for the facility but it has continually come up short.

University officials have complained more than once that the lack of lab space has led to waiting lists for science classes.

A small science annex opened in January 2011 to relieve some of the pressure on the existing lab space by bringing the total number of labs at the Morrow-based school up to 11. But Hynes admitted at the time that it was not a long-term solution.

“It buys us two, to three years of breathing room,” Hynes said during the annex’s opening.

A new science building is expected to add as many as 16 new labs at Clayton State, and open the door to developing master’s-level science degrees.