Disruption on the Quad

Construction on the Reynolds Journalism Institute means much of the MU landmark is off-limits.
Monday, January 23, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:03 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

They contribute to one of the most photographed landmarks in Missouri. Six limestone columns stand majestically over MU’s 3-acre Francis Quadrangle, framed by large oaks with historic Jesse Hall in the background. On clear days, students play kickball or Frisbee on the lawn as visitors stroll by or read books at the foot of their chosen pillar.

But when students returned for the winter semester, they were greeted with orange markers, white trailers and the sounds of machinery.

“I had no idea. My first thought was ‘What’s going on?’” sophomore Andrew Rathert said. “You pull down the street and around the circle and see the pillars. Now, I’m not sure you’ll be able to do that.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute took place on Sept. 1, but the construction area was not zoned off until Dec. 22. The project will include a complete interior renovation of the Sociology Building, changing the now three-story building into four levels while retaining the exterior, constructed in 1892. Walter Williams Hall will be partially remodeled to connect a new addition erected between the two existing buildings.

In preparation for construction of the institute, workers fenced off the area north and northeast of the Columns, and around the Sociology Building and Walter Williams Hall.

“At first, I thought the white trailer was on the sidewalk, and was under the impression that only a small portion would be taken up,” sophomore Adam Milton said. “Now 50 percent of the Quad is under construction. I think in the end things will look better, but for now it’s surprising.”

Campus Facilities spokesman Philip Shocklee said the Quad will be returned to its original state after the project’s completion.

“As you can see, we have held the fences away from the north walkway, and away from the trees and walkways along the east side,” Shocklee said. “The Quad will be restored to the way we knew it.”

Scheduled for completion in fall 2007, the institute will increase the physical size of Journalism School by nearly 30 percent and include a 120-seat forum and broadcast television studio. It will also contain a more technology-based environment with the addition of the Journalism Futures Laboratory and Technology Demonstration Center.

Francis Quadrangle includes 18 academic buildings as well as the Columns. There have been few changes on the grounds since Academic Hall burned down in 1892, although a major utility project was completed several years ago. In November 1989, several students and archaeologists excavated around the base of the Columns. Though they had hoped to uncover wreckage and artifacts left by cleanup crews after the 1892 fire, such as a tusk that snapped off a taxidermied elephant named Emperor during the race to save the university museum, the diggers mainly unearthed bricks and shards of glass.

“We are very protective of it, since it is a very historical site,” Shocklee said. “A lot of planning and foresight went into the project to minimize inconveniences, but it is a very restrictive area and the project requires extensive work.”

A $31 million donation from the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, the largest single donation in MU history, will fund the institute’s project. The budget includes $18.6 million for building and technology, and $12.4 million for programs, operations and salaries. It also funds the restoration of the Quad.

“We’ve overtaken this very special part of the university,” said Pam Johnson, executive director for the Reynolds Journalism Institute, “and we hope everyone understands that the institute will bring something special to the university as a whole.”

In addition to frequent tours and visitors, events such as Tap Day and the Honors College graduation will still be held on the Quad during construction.

Students who regularly visit the Quad have mixed emotions about the construction.

“I don’t think they are respecting the tradition of the campus,” senior Erin Nothum said. “But I’m sure it will be an improvement, or else they wouldn’t be doing it. It will probably be something cool.”

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