Conference Center would impact campus nature

James Vaughn

As plans for the unconfirmed addition of a Conference Center to USI’s campus move forward, students and environmentalists express concern for the proposed location.

Recent design plans illustrate the possible Conference Center on the west side of Reflection Lake.

University architect Mike Mohr said construction would affect some of the Bent Twig trails.

“A lot of them are up along the northern part of the lake,” he said. “As for the ones on the south end, I don’t know if they’re going to be rerouted or what.”

Trees are going to have to be torn down as well. He anticipates some opposition, but they do not have a plan in place to deal with that yet, Mohr said.  

Sophomore computer science major Derek Keerl said he spends a lot of time in the Business and Engineering Center staring toward the lake.

“Looking out at the lake is amazing from the upper floors,” he said. “Seeing this Conference Center back there would just destroy the peaceful image that I enjoy. It’s my small getaway when I’m spending hours toiling away at assignments. It’s the one place I can look to and see nothing but nature when I’m surrounded by buildings.”

He doesn’t believe a Conference Center would benefit the student body, he said.

“It’s already absurd to think that they would destroy a natural landscape for a building,” he said. “Especially for a building that would be used by so few.”

He said the university has plenty of “Conference Centers” as it is.

There are conference rooms in the University Center. Large conferences and events are currently held in Carter Hall, which seats 740.

Keerl said parking would be another issue.

“I already drive all over the front and back lots and near the (Recreation, Fitness and Wellness Center) and find almost nothing,” he said.

Keerl said he will protest any construction.

John Blair, who heads Valley Watch, an environmental organization in Evansville, said his organization would not take action against the development, but he’d be willing to lend knowledge to anyone who wants to try to stop it.

“It’s frivolous,” he said. “Any destruction of nature is usually for progress or profit.”

During his flights over campus, he’s realized that growth is going to require destruction, he said.

“I just don’t understand this kind of thinking,” Blair said. “Why don’t we just tear down everything on the West Side?”

He hopes they will seek alternatives, he said.

Finance and Administration Vice President Mark Rozewski said he doesn’t know if the funding for the Conference Center is secure, and he doesn’t think the $5 million needed to build it is being taken from the $26 million the university has raised as part of its Capital Campaign.