At last, a new fine arts facility is on the horizon

When USF President Judy Genshaft announced at her annual fall address that the University’s No. 1 priority was to receive funding for a new Visual and Performing Arts Center, students and faculty rose to their feet and belted out “Hallelujah.”

It was the only fitting response. Small, old and overcrowded, the Fine Arts building is an eyesore and an embarrassment. Mold, leaks and asbestos have been found, and students are sometimes forced to practice outside.

Faculty members at the Visual and Performing Arts College remain cautiously optimistic, and it is difficult to blame them. For decades, they have been teased with a promise of a new building only to have it pulled from under them This shouldn’t be the case this year.

Approximately a month before Genshaft’s speech, plans for a new facility were put on the state Board of Governor’s three-year request list, which all but guarantees its approval by the Florida State Legislature and Gov. Jeb Bush, who has never vetoed anything on the list.

Still, it’s USF’s administration that deserves credit. In office for only about four years, Genshaft and her staff accomplished what her predecessors could not.

Last summer, she reportedly met with the governor to personally show him photos of the building. When the governor vetoed funding for a second consecutive year, USF promised it would do all it could to get the new facility on the BOG’s three-year list. To do so, in September, just before the BOG was to finalize its three-year request list, Genshaft reportedly flew to Tallahassee at 6:30 a.m. to meet with members of the BOG in an attempt to convince them to add a new facility.

Apparently, it worked.

Now, Genshaft and her staff need to apply the same amount of pressure, if not more, to other construction projects on campus. The School of Architecture, for example, which just received accreditation, uses a small, cramped facility unsuitable for students and staff as an adequate learning environment.

Also, the condition and look of both the softball and baseball complexes are beyond embarrassing and need to be renovated as soon as possible. If USF wants to be noticed in the powerhouse-filled Big East, it should make its own facilities attractive.

Percussion professor Robert McCormick, who began his career at USF in 1974, said last summer, just after the governor vetoed funding, that he hoped “someday logic will prevail.”

It seems someday, for the Visual and Performing Arts Center, has finally arrived.