From left, Janet Mercincavage (Vice President of Student Affairs), Tom Butchko (Associate Vice President of Procurement), Corey Unis (Vice President of Enrollment Management), and Dr. Joseph Evan (Vice President of Academic Affairs) prepare to give division reports.
Image by Jill Patton

Students learned about the college’s latest expansion plans and presented their own concerns at the annual Fall Open Forum.

The Student Government Association and Student Affairs sponsored the forum on Monday, October 23. College administrators presented their latest plans in their division reports.

Several administrators explained that King’s is renovating new properties, investigating future acquisitions and improving current properties.

King’s will start renovating the Memorial Presbyterian Church on North Street, which will become a new worship space. The church was originally built in 1872 and was recently added to the National Register of Historic Places.

“The current chapel location will be refigured into more student space in not too long,” College President Fr. Jack Ryan said.

“Probably a spirit shop, like a bookstore, as well as group study space. Think of it as the current chapel and the library connected,” he continued.

Another major project is the Spring Brook Water Supply Company building on Franklin Street, the future home to the engineering program. In addition to the popular 3+2 program in partnership with Notre Dame, the college added its own independent programs in mechanical and civil engineering this fall. The new building will help accommodate the expanding programs.

King’s is also eyeing new property acquisitions, such as the Times Leader building on North Main Street. The building features 66,000 square feet, four floors, and parking.

“That particular facility would give us an opportunity to grow other allied health programs. Or even if we see significant growth in the engineering program, it gives us another opportunity for growth in that section of the campus as well,” Tom Butchko, associate vice president of procurement and chief facilities officer noted.

In addition to exploring new properties, King’s hopes to renovate its current buildings. The court level of the library will become an Academic Success Center, which will house services like the Academic Skills Center, tutoring program, Office of Academic Advisement, Writing Center, and a new Math Center.

“All of those services would be brought together under one roof, and I think it would be a great portrait of the wonderful academic support we have here” explained Dr. Joseph Evan, vice president of Academic Affairs.

Some attendees expressed their concern about noise levels and loss of study space. Evan noted that the Academic Success Center would take advantage of the basement’s underutilized space while the library’s upper levels would still have study areas, computer labs, and other quiet workspaces.

King’s is also considering adding new housing options at King’s on the Square to accommodate growing class sizes.

“The third floor through fifth floor [of King’s on the Square] were not renovated as part of the original construction, so that’s sitting in our inventory for potential growth and expansion for additional new student housing,” Butchko said.

The growing class sizes also put pressure on existing parking. King’s recently purchased the Oasis Inn on North Pennsylvania Avenue, which will be demolished and turned into a parking lot. King’s also owns property on the corner of North River Street and North Street that can be made into additional parking.

To pay for the expansions, Ryan explained that King’s is about to embark on its largest capital campaign. “It’s the biggest and boldest ask that we ever made at this institution for you. We’re going to be going out there and asking people to invest in you,” he said.

Freddie Pettit, vice president of institutional advancement agreed, calling the upcoming campaign a “game changer” and “the most ambitious fundraising campaign this college has ever known.”

The college hopes that about 40% of the funding for the building projects will come from outside sources. In addition to donations from alumni and friends, the college hopes to obtain state grants, new markets tax credits, and historic tax credits, specifically for the Spring Brook and church projects.

The fundraising campaign will also ask for money for more scholarships, especially for engagement opportunities like study abroad and student research.

After the division reports, SGA vice president George Casey opened the floor for the question and answer session.

The college’s smoking policy was a recurring topic. The current policy states that smoking is prohibited in all college facilities and within 20 feet of entrances. It is also banned on Lane’s Lane, Regina Court, and the lower level of the Campus Center. The policy is community enforced, meaning that students, staff, and faculty have the responsibility to respectfully remind smokers of these rules.

“This is a circular thing. It comes back every couple years, and we study it and don’t seem to come up with a solution everyone is satisfied with,” Ryan said.

Some students pointed out that those who violate the policy might not take their colleague’s requests seriously.

“If this is systemic, if you notice that there’s eight to ten people systematically in front of a building, I would probably get some support, either Security [or] a group of peers,” Ryan recommended.

Some students expressed interest in making King’s a smoke-free campus. Ryan pointed out the logistic difficulties, such as defining whether public spaces like the sidewalks that border the college would count as part of the campus.

“I think there’s a lot of the technicalities we never worked out, but maybe this is the time to revisit it,” Ryan said.