Building Bentley will cost us big bucks

Originally Posted on The Triangle via UWIRE

Photograph courtesy of Drexel Now

Drexel University recently received a $5 million donation, from Gregory S. Bentley, CEO of Bentley Systems, a leading global provider of software solutions, and his wife Caroline. The Bentleys aren’t alumni of Drexel, but Gregory Bentley is on Drexel’s Board of Trustees and is the chair for the Pennoni Honors College Advisory Board. It’s no surprise he wants to donate money to the honors college.

Bentley, Drexel and American Campus Communities are all teaming up to build a new habitat for honors students. Previously a closed residence hall, Calhoun Hall,  is currently being renovated into Bentley Hall. Bentley Hall will be a new complex which will host a living and learning community strictly for honors college students. As someone not in the honors college, I can’t understand why Drexel wants to spend so much money on something that isn’t urgently needed.

I do think Calhoun needed to be fixed and opened again after a few short years in “shutdown” mode, but a $35 million new project?

With their budget for this plan, Drexel could have updated the library, figured out a parking solution for their heavy commuter population, worked on the Academic Building, built an extra dorm or even added another set of classrooms.

Bentley Hall will accommodate about 380 students, two to a room, on eight floors. Attached to this traditional dorm will be a brand new two-story 10,000 square-foot glass and stone building for the Pennoni offices and seminar rooms.

I thought that was the purpose of Millennium Hall. The dorm has certain floors dedicated to honors students and MacAlister Hall is home to their college. Drexel now wants to move it all into one finite area. “Bentley Hall will be unique in allowing students to live in the same area in which study and programming take place. We think this will get more students involved earlier in opportunities for an enriched and socially engaged education,” Paula Cohen, dean of the Pennoni Honors College, said.

But isn’t that what college is for? I think if Drexel plans to keep accepting more students than they can accommodate, an eight-floor dorm isn’t enough. American Campus Communities (which owns University Crossings, The Summit at University City and Chestnut Square) is also involved in the plan, as they’re the lead developer in the project.

Drexel is really spending $35 million on the Bentley Hall project. What bothers me the most about some universities is that they never consult their students on their construction plans. In 2017 it was reported that Drexel had an endowment of $722 million. I’m sure it has gone up since then.

Every single student should be questioning at all times: what exactly does tuition cover and where does it go? Not to your teachers’ salaries or all the buildings named after people. If we all pay such a high bill to this institution, why is it that certain people get special privileges with the money?  

Your tuition is about $50,000, so question every single thing about your university until they consult the student body on their next project.

“I’m deeply grateful to Greg and Caroline Bentley, whose generous support will raise to a new level the already transformative honors experience for our most academically talented undergraduates, while also creating a state-of-the-art addition to our campus,” Drexel University president, John A. Fry said.

In case you don’t know what the transformative honors experience is, someone in the program not only graduates with honors but gets priority registration for classes, $25 of printing in the honors lounge per term, opportunity to take interesting honors classes and access to honors events like seminars, workshops, etc.

Yes, President Fry, we are all sorry we aren’t in the honors program and that Drexel thinks we aren’t academically talented, but we all don’t get the honors program perks.

“Caroline and I both benefited from enthusiastic honors program participation during college and we are gratified to be able to help Drexel’s Honors College students to now experience the best of all educational worlds — becoming well-prepared for great jobs, taking advantage of challenging but intimate liberal arts courses as the foundation for a well-rounded life,” Gregory Bentley said.

Drexel doesn’t bat an eye at challenging but intimate liberal arts courses. But the new project will change that.

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