ISELF the vision vs. ISELF reality

When Gov. Dayton signed the bonding bill that funded the building of the ISELF building, aka the Integrated Science & Engineering Laboratory Facility, on St. Cloud State’s campus, it was a big deal. Here’s the key part of the statement St. Cloud State issued about ISELF:

The 100,000 square-foot research and teaching facility will be built at 8th Street South and 2nd Avenue on the site of the 801 Building. Classrooms and labs are slated to serve mostly upper-level and graduate-level science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medical technology and radiology classes.

Research in ISELF will support Minnesota companies that are global leaders in medical devices, pharma/biologics, animal science, bio-agriculture and renewable energy. St. Cloud State faculty and students will be able to do more collaborative research with businesses and earn more National Science Foundation grants, said David DeGroote, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

ISELF is about putting people in the same physical space to interact and collaborate around projects that are cross-disciplinary,” DeGroote said. “That’s how work gets done in the real world.”

Dr. DeGroote was fired this winter and replaced by Dan Gregory, who is now the interim dean of the College of Science and Engineering, aka COSE. I guess that’s “what happens in the real world.”

Fast forward to today. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in mid-August. Here’s what Minnesotans got for their “$44.8 million dollars”:

That looks impressive. Let’s take a walk inside. What do we have here?

Wow. I wasn’t expecting a big, empty room. Surely, someone’s using the facility. Let’s check another room:

Another empty room. What’s with that? Maybe I’ll find people in a conference room:

Seriously, Minnesota taxpayers got ripped off. Spending $45,000,000 on an empty building is outrageous. I don’t fault the legislators who voted for ISELF. I fault President Potter and Dr. DeGroote for selling legislators a grand vision that they didn’t think through.

There’s little doubt that President Potter and Dr. DeGroote put together a dazzling presentation for the legislators. There’s no doubt that they didn’t do the work to turn their vision into a functioning facility. There weren’t any departments that moved into the building. It isn’t anticipated that any departments will move into the facility any time soon, either.

President Potter’s time as president is littered with the building of shiny new buildings. Five Alive, Coborn’s Plaza, ISELF, a major remodeling of the National Hockey Center and a new parking ramp at the north end of campus were built during President Potter’s time as president. Meanwhile, the school’s enrollment dropped dramatically. Finance directors have come and gone. St. Cloud State is losing between $1,125,000 and $1,500,000 a year on Coborn’s Plaza.

What has President Potter touched that hasn’t turned into lead?

Comments welcome at Let Freedom Ring.