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Editorial: Update the Pharmacy Building

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | OCTOBER 30, 2013 5:00 AM

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It’s widely believed that part of the source of the booming cost of higher education is a race for prestige. The argument goes that universities are mainly interested in one-upping each other, and so they attempt to woo prominent researchers with fat salaries and less instruction time along with upgrading and building new facilities that they don’t need. This allows universities to attract the cream-of-the-crop students, making these institutions look better. But someone has to pick up the tab, and that someone is students.

Surely, there is truth to this, perhaps even at the University of Iowa. However, it’s important not to confuse the needless competition for prestige with a legitimate need for new facilities.

The UI College of Pharmacy Building is one such example. It is among the university’s best programs, ranking at No. 17 compared with all other American pharmacy graduate programs, according to U.S. News & World Report. Nevertheless, the facility itself is lackluster at best.

In this situation, the best course of action is to construct a new building with some assistance in the form of state funding, as university officials and the state Board of Regents have proposed.

“It just doesn’t permit itself to be used in the learning environment that it’s expected,” UI Provost P. Barry Butler has previously told The Daily Iowan. “The conditions in this building, intended to be a state-of-the-art facility, but [it is] one that is lacking even the basic needs for research and teaching.”

Rod Lehnertz, the director of Planning, Design and Construction at UI Facilities Management, has also said that the Pharmacy Building “from a functional perspective, is obsolete.”

Not only is the Pharmacy Building inadequate to meet proper educational goals, but the act of not replacing it will cost the university money.

A 2009 report from the UI found that the Pharmacy Building was the most inefficient structure on campus per square foot, spending 5 million kilowatt hours of electricity in fiscal 2009. All buildings on the Pentacrest combined used 300,000 fewer kilowatt hours of electricity than the Pharmacy Building.

In short, the pharmacy school is excellent despite its lackluster facilities. Imagine what it could achieve given superior resources that meet its needs and allow it to fulfill its potential.

Unfortunately, the $3 million in funding that the Iowa Legislature agreed to provide for constructing a new pharmacy facility was struck down when Gov. Terry Branstad vetoed the measure over spending concerns. He expressed a similar sentiment to The Daily Iowan last week when he toured the facility.

“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,” he said.

We understand and sympathize with Branstad’s desire for fiscal responsibility. It is bothersome that initial estimates for a new pharmacy facility amounted to $67 million and have since climbed to $96 million.

However, considering that around half of the state’s pharmacists graduate from the UI pharmacy school and graduates of the college are in 95 of all 99 counties, it makes sense to invest in a higher-quality facility, considering the level of impact around the state.

Helping fund a superior building is not just throwing money into some sort of prestige competition; it is investing in a public good that would benefit the whole state.


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