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Tour aimed at conveying need for funding

BY LILY ABROMEIT | OCTOBER 25, 2013 5:00 AM

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Peeling paint and outdated cupboards in crowded labs along with cramped space in study and training rooms cause constant tricky navigation. Ben Gillig, the president of the Univeresity of Iowa Executive Council of Graduate and Professional students said pharmacy students have to play a daily game of “human Jenga.”

College of Pharmacy students and staff led Gov. Terry Branstad and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds on a tour of their building, pointing out items they believe to be not up to par.

A group of roughly 20 UI officials, student leaders, pharmacy students, and staff accompanied the governor and lieutenant governor on what was one of many stops during their visit to the UI. The UI officials were hoping to persuade the state leaders to advocate for funding for a new UI pharmacy building.

“We’re really hoping the governor will see the inadequacy of our building and hopefully lend financial support toward us getting a new building,” said third-year pharmacy student Brianne Bakken.

Over the summer, Branstad denied funding for planning for a new building, saying the money would be better spent on the building itself.

“There’s always going to be demands for additional facilities but we have got to make sure that we’re prioritizing with the limited resources that we have,” Branstad said in an interview with The Daily Iowan.

The tour consisted of a visit to the current study spaces, a lecture hall, research labs, training rooms and UI Pharmaceuticals.

Bakken said the pharmacy school is in desperate need of new facilities, citing lack of study and team space as well as insufficient lecture halls. She noted these issues could cause bigger problems within the program.

“We’re seeing decreased numbers of applications to the program here because the facility just doesn’t meet the needs,” she said.

Among the issues addressed on the tour were lack of space, outdated facilities, inability to address safety issues, and absence of adequate amenities.

Peter Matthes, the UI strategic communications director, said the governor was instrumental in helping to create the current building and said this meeting would hopefully encourage his continued support.

“This will hopefully continue discussions … that this is an important partnership between the University of Iowa and the state,” Matthes said.

Gillig, who attended the tour, said he thinks it is also important states leaders see the building.

“[It] showcases the limitations due to the capacity of the facilities,” Gillig said. “It gives Gov. Branstad and Lt. Gov. Reynolds a chance to see all the college does.”

Gillig said this is especially important because the college plays an “integral” role in health care in Iowa.

This is something Matthes highlighted as an important factor, saying he sees the College of Pharmacy working to develop a pipeline of pharmacists across the state.

This continued rate of UI graduates joining the Iowa workforce is something Bakken said is concerning given current conditions.

“It is important for us to keep producing quality health care professionals in Iowa, increasing the number of students that come here and make sure we can compare to other [pharmacy schools] and won’t lose faculty and staff … because of the facilities,” Bakken said.

Branstad said he was happy with the quality of the work happening in the college and said it has potential for economic development in the future. However, he said, he is still unsure of where funding should be allocated.

“I don’t think we need to spend a lot of money on architects; I think we can look at doing a design build,” he said. “I don’t like the idea of making that commitment in terms of planning as opposed to the project.”

Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said he was glad the governor took the time to visit a building “in dire need of replacement,” but thinks it should be a top priority.

“I don’t understand the governor’s position to change what the Board of Regents has been doing in terms of how they go through the process of designing and constructing facilities,” he said.

Although Branstad said he thought the college made a strong case for change, he still has to evaluate the situation before dedicating the funds.

“We have to measure [the call for funding in the College of Pharmacy] against the other demands we have in terms of budget requests,” he said.

For Donald Letendre, dean of the pharmacy school, a new facility is essential for any future success.

“We’re in a precarious spot, trying to sustain a quality program in an environment that is not conducive to quality,” he said. “No question, we have a top 10 program in the United States, but we have a bottom-10 facility.”


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