Nov 12, 2022Liked by Barry Fenchak

I have served on several boards and the questions you pose are typical of the oversight responsibilities of a fiduciary Director (or Trustee). What I don’t understand is why no other PSU Trustees join you in questioning these large expenditures -- and voting “no” in the absence of receiving adequate answers. The lack of professional curiosity by the PSU Board of Trustees is evident in everything they do. I’m glad you are there and I hope your example will lead others to start doing their job.

Expand full comment
Nov 12, 2022Liked by Barry Fenchak

Were there options/estimates looked at to demolish and rebuild the dormitories?

If so, what were the price differences between a renovation vs a demo/rebuild?

Are there any rebates, grants money from the state or federal government for renovations to a building approximately 60 years old - for historical restoration?

Expand full comment


To the best of my knowledge:

1) I would assume that at some point earlier in the process (before my time on the Board) the options of "Tear Down/Build New" vs Renovate were considered (though I couldn't swear to it). Generally, for buildings like these, even given their age, "renovate" is generally more cost efficient (though that is not true in all cases).

I would assume that would have been the conclusion - that it was at least slightly more cost efficient, all things considered, to renovate (that result would jive with what I have seen at similar projects at PSU and elsewhere)

"Grant Monies" from the State, or anyone else, as a historical renovation or some such program? I do not believe so. And, frankly, if there had been some such feature - even though I was not on the Board at the time of the initial discussions - I am sure I would have known about it.

Expand full comment
Nov 11, 2022Liked by Barry Fenchak

Re: Renovations in East Halls

I lived in Tener Hall in the ‘60’s, the first year it was opened, so I’m familiar with those buildings.

I’m not saying you’re wrong.

But you can’t just judge the book by its cover.

You need to look at how much has to be done. I know that our dorms didn’t have AC. Retrofitting old multi story buildings is difficult and expensive. If multiple bids were received, you might feel a bit better about the cost.

The devil is in the details.

Expand full comment
Nov 12, 2022·edited Nov 12, 2022Author

Agreed - East Halls (I lived there many moons ago), and Pollock, which is next on the list (I spent a summer there too, way back when) are very much due for major renovations, like these. I made that clear in my comments to the Board yesterday. And also made mention that I loved the idea of the "renovate East and Pollock" as a way to meet PSU's mission needs to provide on-campus housing at University Park.

It is really the "bang for the buck" that is the issue that raises red flags. While every project is, as you correctly point out, unique in some ways, Dorm renovations of this type are a very common occurrence these days (largely due to so many Universities, including most of our Big Ten cohorts, having gone through the "campus enrollment/building boom" of the 1960s - and needing to refurbish so much of their aging on-campus housing)

That gives us a lot of "comparables" to look at - which, though unique in specific areas, are in many cases very similar in broad strokes - and should be at least in the ballpark with one another on costs. (I used the Wisconsin comps in the write up because projects were so incredibly similar in every significant feature, including the AC item you mentioned... and I believe there are some links embedded in the article that lead to much more detailed info. One of them should take you to a table which compares those projects - and I think you will be kind of taken by just how, all things considered, "Nearly 100% Venn Diagram Overlap" those projects are)

Quite frankly, we are often paying significant more - sometimes in the range of twice as much - than our Big Ten cohorts, to accomplish the same missions (student housing being just one of them).

That is one of the key reasons (but not the only one) why PSU's long-term debt has quadrupled over the last 9 years - to a "gag an elephant' level of debt, which will sadly come home to roost soon enough (Current term misspending leading to long-term debt service burden is, to paraphrase from the Lion King - The Circle of Life, wrt Fiscal Irresponsibility).

One way or the other, that needs to stop, IMO. It is not only wasteful, it is also unsustainable for the long term.

Expand full comment