KSU backs out of deal with Turks

Kristine Phillips

Both parties disagree over Van Campen plans

When the Office of International Affairs decided it wanted to renovate Van Campen Hall, it didn’t anticipate there would be so much uncertainty about the building’s occupancy.

President Lester Lefton told Daily Kent Stater editors earlier in the semester that Kent State was in talks with Bahcesehir University in Istanbul to convert the building into a Turkish student center for their exchange program, but the two universities “were having communication problems” over plans for renovating.

After almost a year of negotiations that began with Steve Michael, vice provost for diversity, the university backed out of the agreement in February.

Among the things Lefton said the universities disagreed on were the need for wheelchair access to the buildings and family-style bathrooms.

“There was no understanding that we had to go by Ohio law,” said Mary Ann Saunders, executive director of international affairs.

Saunders said Kent State tried negotiating with representatives from the Turkish university. First, Bahcesehir University said it would pay the costs of renovation for the building. When officials from the universities couldn’t reach an agreement on the plans for the building, Kent State agreed to absorb the costs, while giving Bahcesehir University the first right of refusal to use the space.

Saunders said Kent State is now in talks with a number of other international universities to use the space as a student center. The dormitories may also be used as housing for Kent State students.

Despite the uncertainty as to who will occupy the building, building renovations began in mid-January with demolitions.

Currently, there are three parts to the building, two of which will undergo renovations, said Tom Euclide, executive director of facilities planning and operations.

The office portion of the building, which contains the Office of International Affairs, will not be renovated. However, the dormitory portion and the lobby area will be renovated. Demolitions of buildings have been mostly completed.

Euclide said the dormitories will be fitted with air conditioning units. Also, the entire plumbing, lighting and electrical systems will be replaced from the system that was installed in the 1960s, when the building first opened. The dorms have been vacant for about three years.

In the lobby portion of the building, Euclide said several classrooms will be updated with newer systems and brought up to code. A wheelchair lift from the lobby area to the ground floor of the dormitory for handicapped students will also be included.

As renovations progress on Van Campen, the university is still trying to find an occupant for the building. Euclide said the renovations will be complete by mid-summer and will be ready to house students in the fall.

“I would love to see that dorm as a mixture of domestic students with an interest in international affairs and international students,” Saunders said. “This would make the area part of an international courtyard.”

Contact general assignment reporter Kristine Philips at [email protected].