Study puts price tag on Haskell facility needs: more than $100 million

The Haskell Indian Nations University campus is pictured in this 2010 file photo. At left in background is the Auditorium and at right is Hiawatha Hall.

To get its aging facilities where they need to be, Haskell Indian Nations University needs between $111 million and $123 million, a new report says.

Including restoration work needed to reopen the shuttered 1898 Hiawatha Hall would put the price tag on the higher end.

Haskell’s National Board of Regents on Thursday saw a report from the university’s first comprehensive facilities study since 1998, and passed resolutions in support of pursuing ways to get the plan implemented.

“Over 10 years, we hope that it’s achievable,” Haskell President Venida Chenault said. “We hope for investments from some tribes.”

Architects, planners and engineers spent time on campus last fall and returned earlier this year to discuss preliminary results with campus stakeholders, Chenault said.

The team, led by Albuquerque-based Dyron Murphy Architects, looked at buildings’ functions and performed architectural evaluations that included assessing ADA compliance, safety compliance, building code compliance and renovation history, Chenault said. They then created a facilities improvement funding plan.

That plan has two options, the first configuration priced at $123.1 million and the second at $111.7 million.

“We have a significant problem with our facilities across campus,” Chenault said. “This did not touch every building on campus but tried to address some of the immediate and more critical needs.”

From those options, Haskell leaders identified the following as facilities priorities, according to Chenault’s report: Hiawatha Hall renovation; a new School of Business building; a new science, technology and math building; renovation of academic spaces; new dorms; renovation of remaining dorms; a new “One Stop” building for admissions, registrar and financial aid offices; and a new Little Nations Academic Center, Haskell’s on-campus child care facility.

The key to enabling these projects is the recently revived Haskell Foundation.

When they go out to seek donations from American Indian tribes and others in the private sector, representatives need concrete price tags for how much respective projects will cost, Chenault said. For example, she said, a tribe might want to fund construction of a new dorm and have its name on it.

Little Nations drew the most discussion among regents.

Chenault said about 14 children currently attend the care center and that the building is located in a flood plain, lacks a tornado shelter and has “numerous’ other problems. She said a possibility would be incorporating the child care facility into another building.

Board members questioned whether it was necessary for Little Nations to have its own building. But several also said they thought it was important for Haskell, with its high numbers of nontraditional students, to offer on-campus child care.

Brandon Stevens, the board’s Midwest Region representative, said he wants Haskell to remain a place that supports families trying to get an education.

“I understand the cost and everything, but … this is a family atmosphere,” he said. “I just want to make sure we’re still in that direction.”

Carrie O’Toole, Four Tribes of Kansas representative, said she thinks children having “good tribal role models” is valuable. “If you keep them here, they see education is a priority.”

The board passed a formal resolution stating its “full support” of the adoption and implementation of the facilities master plan.

Additional resolutions requested that board members “fully engage” in efforts and advocacy to support funding for Haskell and stated the board’s support for outreach and promotional marketing for fundraising with tribal nations.

Final resolutions reiterated the board’s support for Haskell to continue lobbying federal-level lawmakers to obtain funding for construction through legislation.

Haskell is the only four-year university in the country run by the federal Bureau of Indian Education. As such, the university must follow federal processes for contracting and funding that differ greatly from state or private universities and which leaders say are constricting and cumbersome to navigate.

The facilities master plan firm had also recommended some buildings for demolition; however, all of those suggestions were taken out of the plan, Chenault said.

“Because of our designation as a national landmark historic site that’s not so easily done,” she said.

The Haskell campus has about 40 buildings. Haskell’s newest building, Roe Cloud residence hall, was constructed in 1994.

“We recognize there’s a need for growth on this campus,” Chenault said. “Whatever we do with facilities, we also need to incorporate the needs of our academic programs, because that is our core mission.”