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Mixed feelings on UND building plans

GRAND FORKS — Kristine Paranica might be the director of the Conflict Resolution Center now, but she was once a law student living in 314 Cambridge on the University of North Dakota campus.

When she returned to work there in the ‘90s, she was pleasantly surprised to find she would have an office in the building she had formerly called home.

“Honestly, I love this old building,” she said.

Now, that building is one of eight that UND has decided to take “offline” and potentially demolish.

“I get that the building is old, but on the other hand I think it’s a historic piece of campus that I think it will be hard to replace,” Paranica said.

The eight buildings are Chandler Hall, Babcock Hall, the Strinden Center, the Era Bell Thompson Multicultural Center, 314 Cambridge, the Women’s Center, Dakota Hall and the Center for Community Engagement. Departments in those buildings would have to relocate to existing buildings on campus.

The university simply does not want to put more money into the buildings, and administrators feel the needs of the departments in them will be better met in a more modern building, according to spokesman Peter Johnson.

“Buildings run their course at some point,” he said. “It’s counterproductive to keep putting dollars into them.”

The buildings vary in age. The 314 Cambridge building was built in 1927, according to county records. Dakota Hall, a former hotel, was built in 1976.

According to data from UND’s Office of Institutional Research, operation costs, which don’t include salaries, have reached more than $961,000 since 2008 for the Center for Community Engagement, the Women’s Center, the Conflict Resolution Center and the Multicultural Center alone.


Faculty reaction to the news has been mixed.

Unlike Paranica, Linda Rohde, director of the Environmental Training Institute, said she’s used to being moved around; the institute has only been in Dakota Hall for less than two years.

“We’re not panicking on our end,” she said.

Overall, the biggest buzzword has been “communication.”

Paranica said some of the staff was surprised by the news of potential demolition.

“The custodial staff has heard rumors ... But we didn’t know that it was that high on the list,” she said.

But Department of Theatre Co-chairman Michael Wittgraf said as far as his department is concerned about its removal from Chandler Hall, the process has been completely transparent.

“All the powers that be are working with us nicely,” he said.


For some departments, the move might not be so easy.

While Kay Mendick, director of the Women’s Center, did not respond to several requests for comment, people who use the center are concerned its new location in McCannel Hall in the heart of campus is too exposed.

“The Women’s Center has a history of being a safe place for victims of rape or sexual abuse to seek help,” history professor Cynthia Prescott said in an email. “The Multicultural Center likewise provides a safe place for students concerned about harassment. It is important for these centers to remain in spaces that are approachable and comfortable, and where privacy is readily available when needed.”

But Johnson said it depends on how you look at it.

“If you’re near that house, it’s pretty clear that’s where you’re going,” he said. “If you’re in a building with a lot of other stuff going on, it’s maybe not so clear.”

There is no timeline in place for these changes. For example, Johnson said it is unclear where the anthropology department in Babcock Hall will be moved, so this transition won’t happen anytime soon.

Johnson encouraged faculty, staff and students with questions to contact his office at (701) 777-2731.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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