With construction abound, funds from donors not flowing fast enough

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With less than three years remaining, UT’s fundraising effort is behind in meeting its $3 billion goal.

UT’s Campaign for Texas began Sept. 1, 2006, with an Aug. 31, 2014, deadline and is behind schedule by $221,905,313. David Onion, senior associate vice president of University development, said donors don’t make contributions consistently enough to replace state funding.

“Donors do not find it motivating if their gift is going to pay the light bill,” Onion said.

Donors specify how they would prefer their money to fit into each of the colleges’ priorities which can include scholarships, faculty incentives, buildings and research.

Onion said the development office is focused on communication with the 450,000 living UT alumni.

“Donors will continue giving but to less organizations,” Onion said. “So the organizations who stay in better contact will have much better success.”

Since the beginning of the campaign five years ago, 111,278 alumni have made donations, according to a development document.

Four new campus buildings are either under construction or have been approved, all of which rely on donations to help cover costs. The College of Communication started construction on the Belo Center for New Media on March 25, 2010. The Department of Computer Science will be housed in a building named for donors Bill and Melinda Gates, which began construction Oct. 29, 2010.

One goal within the larger fundraising campaign is to raise $100 million in gifts for an Engineering Education and Research Center, which was approved by the UT System Board of Regents last week, Gregory Fenves, Cockrell School of Engineering dean, said in an interview last week. He said the facility, which will be west of Waller Creek between 24th and Dean Keeton streets, will offer students a space to conduct technology research.

John Halton, associate dean for school relations in the engineering school, said the facility will help produce extra revenue through the commercialization of technology.

“It’s a building that’s designed to attract faculty to do interdisciplinary research,” Halton said.

The Liberal Arts building, which is currently under construction, has $19,028,889 in donations, said Kathleen Aronson, assistant dean for development for the College of Liberal Arts. She said the building is expected to be finished in October 2012, which is earlier than expected, and will most likely cost $10 million less than planned.

Liberal Arts assistant dean Joseph TenBarge said using University staff members lowered consulting costs. He said the building’s design makes construction costs cheaper because it is laid out like a commercial building, but it will incorporate design elements of institutional buildings.

“We built a big square box, but we surrounded the building with faculty offices,” TenBarge said. “Light will come in through translucent glass into the middle.”

TenBarge said using the same contractor and architect who worked on the new Student Activity Center helped ease the process. The building will be made of more glass than the SAC and will be ornamented with terracotta tiles like some of the older buildings on campus.

“This building pushes the edge quite a bit,” TenBarge said. “I think it’s going to be a really striking building.” 

Printed on Friday, September 2, 2011 as: Fundraising campaign falls behind on donation goal.