“I can’t answer your question,” said Michael London, assistant vice president for facilities management at USF, at the weekly ASUSF Senate meeting on Tuesday.At the meeting last Tuesday night, London was invited to share his future vision for campus building renovations and to answer concerned senate member questions regarding these possible developments.
With just over two months of school underway for the 2009-2010 school year, ASUSF Senate has had a bit of a slow start, but has so far sponsored the bi-annual Club President’s Council (CPC), and invited administrators Holly Winslow of Bon Appetit and Mike London of Facilities Management to speak about changes to the campus. On the agenda for this semester’s Club President’s Council was a “Community Action” update from vice president of mission, Alia Al-Sharif, a budget and Superfund presentation from vice president of business administration, My Nguyen, and a short list of brainstormed student issues on campus from President, Bobby Marquez. Traditionally, CPC has been one of only two mandatory club events hosted by Senate in the fall semester, the second being Fall Summit. This year however, Senate also mandated that all funded accounts give a short presentation at a Senate meeting that explained where the club is at this point in the semester, what their goals are for the year, and if and how Senate can assist. The idea behind these presentations is that it would hold clubs more accountable throughout the year.
A few clubs went early on in October, giving longer presentations, including a beautiful performance from ASUSF Voices. The rest of the eight clubs however, were asked to present in one meeting on October 27th, after an hour long presentation from Mike London on the status of the now gutted University Center 5th floor. Despite the request to talk about UC plans, London’s presentation focused mostly on future projects of USF, including the new “Center for Science and Innovation,” to be completed down the road around the year 2028. With almost every Funded Account present, questions quickly turned to the move of club offices out of lower level Phelan and UC 100, into the UC 4th or 5th floor, ultimately uprooting every student club space. London answered almost every question by indicating he was not the authority on that move, and that any specific space allocation for clubs after the move was an issue for the architects. Before entertaining the senate’s questions, London explained his job title. “I’m in charge of master plans for the university,” said London. He spoke about the need to revamp the entire Phelan dormitory structure, particularly its leaky plumbing, and to update the aesthetics of the fourth and fifth floors of the University Center building to “bring it out of the 60s.”
While London’s propositions were well received by the senators and “the board of trustees think they are good ideas,” the excitement of his plans seemed to fade when it came time for students to ask him questions. London did not seem to agree with the students.
Sophomore and international studies major, Maggie Kennedy, started off the round of questions by addressing the toilet-seat cover issue, which London said goes back twenty years. USF claims that toilet-seat covers are not issued because they do not protect against the spread of bacteria. Kennedy asked if toilet-seat covers would be added to the newly remodeled Phelan bathrooms. “There’s no empirical evidence that the covers help,” said London, “I’d rather spend money on a science center than on toilet-seat covers.”
Jon Coon, senior business major, asked London about adding additional recycling and composting bins on campus and in dormitories. During this questioning, however, there seemed to be a general miscommunication between the two, which lead London to become agitated, and somewhat defensive. “I don’t understand what you’re saying,” London repeated. After Coon made his questions more understandable, London dismissed notions of adding more bins on campus. He refuted Coon by saying that there are already enough recycling bins all over the campus, and that composting bins will never go in dorms because of the stench.
The tension continued to escalate as London struck a nerve with the Foghorn, USFtv, and College Players representatives, saying that the future renovation plans for the UC building include conjoined offices for the three organizations. Several organization representatives, including students from The Foghorn and USFtv both with offices in lower level Phelan, expressed concern for adequate working space, as well as security for thousands of dollars worth of ASUSF funded equipment. London addressed these concerns by stating that, “Everyone wants their own space” on campus, and that we all may need to share. Wide eyes all around, the club representatives were visibly upset by the lack of attention to their valid opinions, as well as London’s curt responses.
Editor-in-Chief of the Foghorn, Laura Plantholt, argued against the combined offices, in which she included issues of personal space, privacy, and noise. London responded “This isn’t the time to express those feelings,” and told Plantholt to make her feelings clear at a later date with the Board of Trustees.
Because London did not extend much interest to Plantholt’s concern, a USFtv producer also spoke to London about her inclination towards separate offices, and brought to light the “larger security issues” at hand – theft in the offices. Even after USFtv offered London examples of the equipment theft, he had nothing to say, and quickly moved on to the next question.
At the end of the questioning period, junior Dennis Walker really irritated London. Walker reiterated the toilet-seat cover issue, asking if not buying toilet-seat covers was just to save the school money.
“Don’t put words in my mouth,” London said. The real offense was taken when Walker asked London about his salary, at which London became visibly flustered, and paced back and forth shaking his hands and head. He refused to answer the question.
On the tension with the students, London said there was “no tension. I am just direct with journalism students. I thought the salary question was disrespectful. All of the rest was fine.”