Administrators hold town hall to discuss McCain lobby renovations with students

A concept rendering of the upcoming lobby expansion planned for McCain Auditorium. (Courtesy Photo by the Kansas State University Foundation)

Late Thursday morning, the School of Music, Theatre and Dance held a town hall meeting in All Faiths Chapel for Kansas State students and faculty to openly discuss the upcoming renovation and expansion of the lobby in McCain Auditorium, along with other facility improvements.

To begin, a panel addressed student concerns surrounding the Kansas State University Foundation’s plans for expanding the McCain lobby. Many students have expressed concern on social media in the past week questioning the decision to renovate McCain’s lobby space instead of the classrooms used by students on a daily basis.

The panel consisted of Todd Holmberg, McCain executive director; Linda Cook, K-State’s chief of staff and director of community relations; Amit Chakrabarti, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences; and Jeff Ward, director of the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Chakrabarti began the meeting by thanking students for coming forward and sharing their concerns. He then explained the process that projects like the McCain renovation go through to attain approval and funding, which includes approval from the university provost, a “feasibility” study and approval from the president’s cabinet and the Kansas Board of Regents.

The approved renovations for McCain include an expansion of the lobby, a new box office, a technical directors’ suite, a new suite of administrative offices and a private lounge for McCain donors.

The renovation plans began to form in 2013, but they were not finalized and approved until 2018, Chakrabarti said.

Chakrabarti revealed additional plans for other renovations that have not yet been finalized, which include improvements to facilities in World War I Memorial Stadium for the marching band and an expansion of McCain 201, the building’s general indoor band rehearsal space.

These plans were not shared with students before because they are still in the preliminary stages of planning, Chakrabarti said, and not yet approved past the feasibility study for funding.

Holmberg then reminded students that no university funding is going toward the McCain lobby expansion, which is being funded entirely by private donations.

“No state, university or tuition funds will be used for building the lobby expansion,” Holmberg said.

The fundraising goal for the expansion is $6 million, of which $5.6 million is already pledged.

Some students came forward to voice various concerns about McCain’s teaching facilities.

Justin Gittle, senior in music education, said many students voiced concerns online about a lack of rehearsal and classroom space, along with the declining quality of those spaces.

In addressing these concerns about classroom space and quality, Ward recalled an incident where a student passed out in a practice room that had become too warm. He agreed with the need for classroom and rehearsal space improvements and said that particular conversation hasn’t happened yet.

“We’re glad you’re here,” Ward said. “The spaces I know don’t bring you here, our people do. So I’m very appreciative of that.”

Joshua Arnoldy, senior in applied music, posed a question about the function and funding of the McCain Performance Series in relation to the School of Music, Theatre and Dance.

Holmberg said the McCain Performance Series does not use university or state funds; it is funded by ticket sales, donors with the Friends of McCain program, private donations, corporate sponsorships and a grant from the Student Governing Association.

Arnoldy noted that the SGA grant Holmberg mentioned is technically funded by student dollars.

“That grant, and correct me if I’m wrong, is an aspect of the student privilege fee … and some of it goes to the McCain Performance Series,” Arnoldy said.

Arnoldy is the former speaker pro tempore of the student senate, and he then reminded attendees that SGA is hosting the KSU Foundation at the next student senate meeting on May 2 at 7 p.m. in Wildcat Chamber. However, this meeting coincides with a concert being performed by students in McCain.

Chakrabarti closed the meeting by reminding students of the importance of sharing their thoughts.

“We work as one university,” Chakrabarti said. “To work as one K-State, we need to listen to you and you need to share your views with us.”

My name is Rebecca Vrbas. I’m the culture editor at the Collegian and a junior in journalism and mass communications. My hobbies include obsessing over an ever-expanding pool of musicals and cats (not the musical). I love writing because of the infinite intricacy of language, as well as its power to cultivate a sense of community through sharing experiences.