When Gov. Dayton signed the bonding bill that funded the building of the ISELF building, aka the Integrated Science & Engineering Laboratory Facility, on St. Cloud State’s campus, it was a big deal. Here’s the key part of the statement St. Cloud State issued about ISELF:

The 100,000 square-foot research and teaching facility will be built at 8th Street South and 2nd Avenue on the site of the 801 Building. Classrooms and labs are slated to serve mostly upper-level and graduate-level science, technology, engineering, mathematics, medical technology and radiology classes.

Research in ISELF will support Minnesota companies that are global leaders in medical devices, pharma/biologics, animal science, bio-agriculture and renewable energy. St. Cloud State faculty and students will be able to do more collaborative research with businesses and earn more National Science Foundation grants, said David DeGroote, dean of the College of Science and Engineering.

ISELF is about putting people in the same physical space to interact and collaborate around projects that are cross-disciplinary,” DeGroote said. “That’s how work gets done in the real world.”

Dr. DeGroote was fired this winter and replaced by Dan Gregory, who is now the interim dean of the College of Science and Engineering, aka COSE. I guess that’s “what happens in the real world.”

Fast forward to today. The ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in mid-August. Here’s what Minnesotans got for their “$44.8 million dollars”:

That looks impressive. Let’s take a walk inside. What do we have here?

Wow. I wasn’t expecting a big, empty room. Surely, someone’s using the facility. Let’s check another room:

Another empty room. What’s with that? Maybe I’ll find people in a conference room:

Seriously, Minnesota taxpayers got ripped off. Spending $45,000,000 on an empty building is outrageous. I don’t fault the legislators who voted for ISELF. I fault President Potter and Dr. DeGroote for selling legislators a grand vision that they didn’t think through.

There’s little doubt that President Potter and Dr. DeGroote put together a dazzling presentation for the legislators. There’s no doubt that they didn’t do the work to turn their vision into a functioning facility. There weren’t any departments that moved into the building. It isn’t anticipated that any departments will move into the facility any time soon, either.

President Potter’s time as president is littered with the building of shiny new buildings. Five Alive, Coborn’s Plaza, ISELF, a major remodeling of the National Hockey Center and a new parking ramp at the north end of campus were built during President Potter’s time as president. Meanwhile, the school’s enrollment dropped dramatically. Finance directors have come and gone. St. Cloud State is losing between $1,125,000 and $1,500,000 a year on Coborn’s Plaza.

What has President Potter touched that hasn’t turned into lead?

UPDATE: I just looked at the scheduling webpage to see if ISELF was being utilized. According to the spreadsheet, the only room utilized in ISELF is Room 110. Also, a loyal reader of LFR sent this picture of the exterior of ISELF:

Obviously, the shiny exterior hides from the public the reality of an empty building.

UPDATE II: A commenter noted that the flier that St. Cloud State used to advertise the ribbon-cutting ceremony for ISELF was actually a picture of the National Hockey and Event Center. This picture shows the flier:

Clearly, the administration got this badly wrong.
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7 Responses to “ISELF the vision vs. ISELF reality”

  • Patrick says:

    Wonder where the new money will come for the operating costs? According to publicly available documents, the project was sold on the basis that tuition and fees from new degree programs would be adequate to cover future expenses! I offer another “grand design project” as an example of ISELF’s possible future – CVTC Nano Center. http://tinyurl.com/k8mkyf2

    See also http://tinyurl.com/mqj76hn “…SCSU is responsible to pay debt service (principle and interest) on approximately $7 million over 20 years.”

  • Gary Gross says:

    Patrick raises a great point that shouldn’t be ignored. SCSU still has to pay the interest on ISELF. There’s another point that can’t be ignored. Had President Potter & Dr. DeGroote proposed adding onto the Wick Science Building to do the things that ISELF was supposed to do, that project would’ve cost $8,000,000. ISELF cost $45,000,000 and it isn’t functional. $8,000,000 & functional vs. $45,000,000 and dysfunctional. That isn’t a difficult decision. (Except with this administration, apparently.)

  • Patrick says:

    Here is the SCSU web page where one can find how “busy” things are in ISELF… https://scsu.scheduling.mnscu.edu/BrowseForSpace.aspx

    One could also peruse the course scheduling system for the Departments that are/were supposed to take advantage of this space. http://www5.stcloudstate.edu/registrar/courseschedule/Search.aspx

  • James Rugg says:

    It is clear that periodic full and transparent audits of current and proposed operations of college systems in Minnesota is necessary. Transfer of academic knowledge, the roots to future student success, has been minimized in favor of social and political interests. The advancement of society is at risk.

  • Jason T says:

    The building in the last photo is the remodeled Herb Brooks Hockey Center, not ISELF.

  • Gary Gross says:

    It’s the picture on the flier for the ribbon-cutting ceremony for ISELF. If that’s the NHEC, then it’s the administration that made the mistake.

  • Jethro says:

    The back side of this flier also has another picture of the hockey center. Makes me wonder if this truly was a simple promotional mistake. Looking at the SCSU online scheduling link Patrick provided shows an almost empty building. At this rate, it appears that ISELF may be in competition to lose over a million dollars a year like SCSU’s Coborn Apartments. http://www.letfreedomringblog.com/?p=14759

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