The Campus Chronicle
Vol. XVI, Issue 6
for the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts
Oct. 6, 2000

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New facilities chief surveys
state of campus

by Daniel J. Fitzgibbons, Chronicle staff

Ted Weidner
Ted Weidner near the Old Chapel (Stan Sherer photo)

T here's a lot going on and a lot that needs to go on."

     That's how new associate vice chancellor for Facilities and Campus Services Ted Weidner sizes up the varied and far-flung operations that he now leads.

     Weidner came to campus in June after holding similar positions at several other schools, most recently a seven-year stint as director of facilities planning and management at Eastern Illinois University. He began his career in facilities at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a Ph.D. in civil engineering, master's degrees in civil engineering and architecture and a bachelor's degree in building science.

     "I love buildings, and I always have," he says. "I love it when people find some element in a building they particularly like."

     Weidner says he hasn't fallen in love with any campus buildings yet, but several are intriguing.

     The Fine Arts Center, he says, is an "interesting building with unique challenges," while the Du Bois Library is "different from most I've been in." Morrill Science Center has some "unique features," he adds.

     Weidner peppers his conversation about the campus with the word "challenges." That's no surprise given that UMass is two-thirds bigger than Eastern Illinois and has a daunting backlog of deferred maintenance issues -- more than $310 million worth, according to a 1995 study.

     "In absolute dollars, the problem is greater now," says Weidner. "Hopefully we can get those funds either from the state, by University borrowing or by getting far-sighted donors to respond to those needs."

     Since arriving in Massachusetts, Weidner says he's been struck by the inaction on maintenance issues.

      "I've been surprised mostly by the inability of the campus to date to really get the message across that there are real needs," he says. "We haven't found the right buttons to push in the state capital."

     The importance of facilities is often overlooked in discussions about higher education, says Weidner.

     "We need to preserve the significant investment taxpayers make in facilities," he says. Regardless of the role of private universities in the state, Weidner adds, "There will be pressure in the not too distant future for additional public education."

     At the same time, additional investment will be needed to support efforts like distance education and other instructional technology.

     "Until we get the faculty to say that all they need to teach is a log for the students to sit on, we are going to need to continue to invest in facilities," says Weidner.

     Special consideration also must be given to particular needs of a research university, adds Weidner. "A lot of demand for facilities comes from researchers and students who come here to learn."

     According to Weidner, the campus must also factor in increasing numbers of government regulations, rules and mandates.

     "They are all very correct and have everyone's best interests at heart," he says. "But all those rules come with a cost."

     At the moment, Weidner says he's still trying to get a handle on the state of the campus. Along with meeting with school and college deans and vice chancellors, he's also discussing priorities with his immediate staff in Facilities and Campus Services.

     Decisions about future directions will "based on where the organization feels it needs to go in order to serve the campus better," he says.

     "Change is inevitable in life. Facilities and Campus Services have made some changes and more are likely," says Weidner. "Some probably won't be that good, but that will be a learning experience."

     Weidner says he's open to differing viewpoints and opinions.

     "I firmly believe there are multiple solutions to a problem," he says. "I really prefer to have other people come up with a solution rather than me. That tends to work pretty well at a university."

     Considering the many, many "challenges" he sees across campus, Weidner will no doubt have many opportunities to test his problem-solving strategy. He's clearly raring to give it a go.

     "I'm tenacious," he says. "I don't like to give up on a problem."

 
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