Lander University President Richard Cosentino used to say accreditation was the school’s No. 1 priority.
He has since changed his mind, a change reflected in the request Lander has made of the House subcommittee on higher education.
“At Tuesday’s House Ways and Means budget presentation, I requested a $2 million additional investment in the protection of the Lander family,” Cosentino said in a statement.
A half-million dollars in recurring funds would go toward hiring three additional Lander University Police Department officers, four new security guards and repair and maintenance of its security infrastructure.
More than $1 million in one-time funding would add 300 cameras to Lander’s campus and an additional “mass emergency outdoor notification system” and refurbish its fire alarm system.
But Greg Allen, Lander’s chief of police, is most excited by a quick-action lockdown system. In the event that an active shooter was on campus, for example, Lander police would be able to lock every external door on campus at the push of a button. Instead of securing doors, Lander police could dedicate themselves to locating the gunman, Allen said.
There is no guarantee that Lander will receive all the money it requested.
“They may say, ‘We’ll only be able to give you $400,000, you figure out the best use of this,’” Adam Taylor, Lander’s vice president for governmental relations, said. He admitted it was possible that the subcommittee not give Lander any money, but said it was unlikely given the state’s billion dollar budget surplus this year, almost half of which is recurring money.
“Higher education as a group is the only group (among state agencies) that’s not at pre-recession levels,” Taylor said, adding that investment in higher education is long overdue.
Lander also requested more than $3 million to replace the roofs on the Finis Horne Arena and Art Annex, $5 million to add to and renovate the nursing building and $7.5 million to add to and renovate the student center.
Taylor said that Lander’s presentation was well received by the subcommittee. “Safety and security is a basic thing that you think they’ll support,” Taylor said. “This isn’t a want, it’s a need.”
Allen said that he is also excited by the possibility of hiring more personnel.
“Special events have picked up,” Allen said. At one point, police were only present at basketball and soccer games. “But now we’re supposed to be at every event.”
In February, the subcommittees will make recommendations to the full Ways and Means committee. In late February, Lander will give a similar presentation before the Senate’s Finance Committee.
Regarding his change of heart on accreditation, Cosentino said: “I’d rather close down than have one kid hurt.”