LSU Military Science Building and declining program | Daily
The Military Science Building is not much different from any aging building on campus, except that the military and ROTC programs were integral to the founding of the university. Today, almost 160 years later, the building is in disrepair and these programs receive little support from the University.
“Our position on campus was deeply rooted,” said Johnathon Price, chief military science officer and ROTC recruiting officer. “The Body has been pushed into this corner that we’re in, and now we’re setting here, struggling to keep our heads above the water.”
The roof is constantly leaking and moisture is building up on the window sills, said Laura Morrow, interim executive director of Facility Services.
The two cannons that once marked the building as the home of the country’s future uniformed men and women have since been withdrawn, Price said. Hallways are filled with buckets collecting water from the leaking roof on rainy days, but moisture damage persists despite efforts to scavenge the water.
There is a gaping hole in the parade field behind the building where the Cadet Corps and ROTC students train.
But it’s not just the military science building that has been put on the back burner. As the building and facilities shrink, the importance of the program on campus also diminishes. Prized academic traditions like Descent from Victory Hill, LSU Student Ambassadors and the Golden Girls are now absent from their military roots.
The Cadet Corps commander previously held a place in the student body president’s cabinet, but the last three administrations have not included a place for the commander, Price said.
The Cadet Corps does not receive funding from the university “although that is the only reason this university exists,” Price said. William Tecumseh Sherman established the University in 1860 as a military seminary, one of the few land grant universities across the country founded to develop military and agricultural programs.
The piping on display in the yard is the result of two major failures to the domestic water line in early January, Morrow said. The domestic water line supplies the campus with potable water, sink water and more. Despite the failure, Morrow said Facility Services was able to minimize water downtime.
The failure occurred when Facility Services began replacing old pipes behind the Military Science Building and along South Stadium Drive. The old pipe, which is between 40 and 80 years old, could not be connected to the new pipe, Morrow said.
The parade ground behind the building, now obstructed by exposed piping and shallow holes from standing water, is ROTC’s only training area, Price said. Students cannot access the abseiling tower in the training yard either.
“The area is now an active construction area, but we have nowhere [else] go, ”Price said.
Morrow said pipeline repairs were nearing completion and that she was working on a plan to level and regas the yard due to the water damage. But Facility Services balances the yard repair with a recently started $ 900,000 roofing project that will continue for the next two and a half months.
Morrow said she expects the roofing project to make “dramatic improvements” to the building. However, she said the roof and pipe repair is just a band-aid for the nearly 60-year-old building and its $ 11 million in deferred maintenance.
“Laura has to be very strategic in how she spends the maintenance dollars,” said Tammy Millican, executive director of facilities and property monitoring. “Do you continue to invest money in a building that has deferred maintenance costs and needs equal to the value of the building? “
But Facility Services is playing a balancing act with buildings like Military Science whose cost of deferred maintenance almost equals the cost of a new building, Morrow said. And this building is just one of many on campus in need of renovations with a total of $ 720 million in deferred maintenance needs across LSU.
“Some of these things are minor, but when you add these items together and consider that the space will likely be moved to a different building, we have to balance that with the hundreds of other single story buildings and their issues,” Morrow said. “Then [we have to] try not to waste [or] spending short-term money when the building is in danger of disappearing, so it’s a balancing act.
Facility Services has a deferred maintenance list detailing all necessary repairs to all buildings on campus, Millican said. But limited funds only allow them to respond to emergencies such as water pipe failures.
“So we’re reactive and we don’t have a lot of time to be proactive,” Morrow said.
Deferred maintenance on campus and the lack of funds to make long-term repairs is just another consequence of cuts to higher education across the state, Millican said. There was a period when services to the University’s facilities received no deferred maintenance funding.
Although the ROTC is one of the oldest student organizations, as of 2016 it was not recognized by the University as an official student organization and had to reinstate its programs, Price said.
The university required all able-bodied male students to serve in the ROTC or Corps of Cadets programs for at least two years, Price said. However, the mandatory two-year conscription was revoked in the late 1960s. Since then, the Corps has grown from approximately 7,000 students to 400 current students.
The university’s founding, military science, and ROTC programs are similar to those at its sister university, Texas A&M, Price said. The two programs developed in a similar fashion and with identical rank structures until the 1960s. But as the university cut funding, Texas A&M programs continued to excel while LSU’s declined.
Price said Texas A&M is now considered a top military college, and its well-funded and rigorous military science program is a selling point when recruiting new students. But the University is struggling to recruit new students due to lack of funding and poor facilities.
“LSU has made it clear that this is not the direction they want to take, and now we’re at the point that we don’t have any funding from the University,” Price said. “I am the recruiting agent and I cannot recruit the best in the state. “
Price said the equipment is also outdated. Most of what the University has available to military science students are surplus supplies that the program has acquired on its own. Price said some equipment dates back to what his father used in the military during the Gulf War in the ’90s.
As the university prepares to update its campus over the next 10 to 25 years, Price said military science students fear their program needs will be overlooked during new construction.
A contractual agreement between the Department of Defense, the ROTC program, and the host school requires the University to maintain adequate facilities for the ROTC and Corps of Cadets programs. But Price said he was concerned about the lack of plans for a new indoor shooting range, recall tower and parade ground, all of which are seen as necessary facilities for the military science program.
Millican and Morrow said the university’s master plan includes moving the military science program to a newer building, which will provide students with the necessary training facilities and equipment.
The master plan is a “high-level view” over the next several decades, Millican said, so there is no clear timeline yet for the relocation of military science. But she said it’s likely the program will move to a building nearby and share that building with another program.
“We don’t have the capacity to say this year this group will move to this location, we just know that in the future this group will not be in this building,” Millican said.