The $105 million that the state is sending to the University at Buffalo for construction and renovation is a piece of good news that goes well beyond the money itself. The state expenditure represents a sensible move toward local control and also serves to reaffirm UB's commitment to the South Campus.
Fairly or not, there is a perception in the community that UB's South Campus in the city is the stepchild to the favored North Campus in Amherst. However, more than half of the planned $105 million expenditure is earmarked for the South Campus. Among its projects are a $20 million expansion and renovation of Farber Hall into a health science education center and another $15 million to $20 million to renovate Acheson Hall.
The Acheson project will help UB collaborate with emerging bio-technology companies. That partnership could result in solid economic gains for the area.
Not that the North Campus is being ignored. Albany will be spending millions there to build a new mathematics building and to renovate the undergraduate library.
In addition to affirming its commitment to the South Campus, the various projects carry though on a promise made by Gov. Pataki to decentralize decision-making. Because the money has been allocated for five years, UB officials can now better plan how to spend the resources.
As one UB official pointed out, very few projects are completed in one year. The five-year window dramatically improves UB's ability to plan. Now, each decision concerning the various projects on the two campuses won't have to go through every step of the state process.
Rather than the state, campus officials, who have a better feel for what UB's needs are than Albany bureaucrats, will be making the choices.
That, of course, puts more responsibility on campus officials. They must use the money effectively and demonstrate the benefits of their new-found flexibility.