‘Live’ Blogging the Master Plan Presentation

OK, not really. I did take notes though and here they are.

On August twelfth 2008 Chancellor Spakes, flanked by vice-Chancellors Mike Wark and Ysabel Trinidad presented the Tacoma City Council an updated Master Plan for the University of Washington. The Chancellor argued that based on several surveys they have either done or had done for them (unclear) the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) administration felt the need to change the current Master Plan to reflect student desires. Specifically, the Chancellor believes that the students want/need three things: dorms, athletic space, and a “traditional college experience.” Thus, the Master Plan has been updated so that, in Phase 4 the UWT will build residence halls, some kind of student union building, and an academic building. In Phase 3, the plan is to refurbish the Joy building, build a new building next to the Tioga building on Jefferson Street, purchase land, and do soil remediation for the area below Market street.

What is meant by an “academic building” in Phase 4 is unclear and remains a key question for the library. Up until now, all of the library’s planning had been banking on a library building being built for the library in Phase 4. Is this a library building or a place for administration? We don’t know the answer to that right now.

Other major changes to the Master Plan that the Chancellor revealed are that the Japanese Language School memorial will be moved so that it’s a continuation of the main greenspace above Market Street, most parking functions will be moved so that they are off campus (Ysabel is working with the City manager on this) and the strong retail presence is also being moved out.

Some interesting discussion ensued from that and I found out that there are the following targets; residence halls for 12% of the student population, the Chancellor believes that the UWT will have more than the 10,000 students that the legislature targets, there will be a ratio of roughly 1 to 15 Faculty to students and 1 to 7 staff to students, and there can be no discussion of buying property outside of the original footprint due to constraints set by the legislature.

If I were to editorialize for just a second, as a citizen, an alumni, and an employee, I would say that this presentation raises a lot of questions. Questions about this institution’s academic direction, what a “traditional college experience” means (Animal House?), and why (ultimately) it’s so important for the University of Washington Tacoma to build dorms and student hubs. Since I haven’t seen any of the surveys, the University hasn’t had any meetings, and nothing has actually been set, I cannot really speak to the particularities there, nor can I speak with any authority on what will or won’t happen. The truth is that we don’t know but we will on or around September 3rd.

What I can say, is that I sense a profound shift. When I went to school here it was touted as a “private school education at a public price.” I came from Tacoma Community College and was fundamentally changed by my experience here: enough that I wanted to stay and be a part of that experience for others. I think I can still see that in our current Mission, Vision, and Values and I hope that will be reflected in the updated Master Plan.


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