President Hennigan discusses university’s future with USG


Photo by Alexander Popichak

President Paul Hennigan at the USG meeting on April 16.

Written By Alexander Popichak, USG Beat Writer

Speaking before Point Park’s United Student Government (USG) meeting Monday, Dr. Paul Hennigan, university president, fielded questions from senators about changes over the next year to Point Park facilities.

One such space, the coffeehouse at 100 Wood Street, is set to open in time for the start of the fall semester.

“We’re looking to do a ‘soft opening’ in August, probably right before the term starts is the goal,” Dean of Students Keith Paylo said Monday. “The grand opening will happen when students return [from summer break].”

Hennigan said the “big news” for the upcoming semester is the opening of the new Pittsburgh Playhouse, attached to the University Center.

“It will be a building for the entire university to use,” Hennigan said in the Student Center Monday. “We did not build such an elaborate, state-of-the-art facility to hand over to a relatively thin slice of our university, meaning just the Conservatory [of Performing Arts]. So we challenged ourselves years ago to try and figure out how to make this building a university asset and work for all the students.”

Hennigan said that every “project” at the new Playhouse  – which he defined as everything from Conservatory shows to speaker series and concerts – will have an “interdisciplinary group of students” managing it.

“It’s a really cool way to bring together a wide variety of students from a wide variety of disciplines to work on these interdisciplinary teams to do these projects,” Hennigan said. “I think the building itself is fabulous and it’s going to have great potential beyond what we could possibly imagine right now and I’m really excited about the programming that will take place around the new Pittsburgh Playhouse.”

In addition to the Playhouse making its move Downtown, Point Park is in the process of completely vacating the Patterson Building on Third Avenue. The university currently leases the fifth and first floors of the building, but by the start of the fall semester, the edit suites will be moved to West Penn Hall and the offices occupying the first floor will move to the eighth floor of Lawrence Hall.

Hennigan backed the university’s commitment to offering shuttles to and from Oakland for the next school year and that service beyond that will be dependent upon usage. According to Michael Gieseke, dean of student life, the shuttles will operate on a once-per-half-hour schedule.

Hennigan said he expects a demand for more on-campus housing to increase with the Playhouse moving Downtown and that the university is seeking lease options for residential spaces to offer as student housing; however, the university has yet to secure any new leases.

“We’re always looking at residential opportunities downtown,” Hennigan said. “We have nothing to report today in terms of actual opportunities to pursue. I know Dean Paylo and our C.F.O. are always looking at residential opportunities downtown.”

The opening of the new Playhouse will not have a large impact on tuition. According to Hennigan, the cost associated with running the new Playhouse was already factored into the 2018-2019 budget year.

“That will not have a significant impact on the operating budget for the university,” Hennigan said Monday. “There is a slight increase in the operating budget in the new Playhouse because of the efficiency of the new Playhouse, but it is much less than you would expect it to be.”

The construction of the $60 million Playhouse is being paid for through a fundraising campaign – funded by outside donors. According to Hennigan, the university has raised $46 million so far.

“There are basically three pieces in that $14 million,” Hennigan said. “There is a foundation that lent us money, interest-free, there is a small piece of bank that funded the building which we will pay off as soon as we get our next big gift, and we have some university cash. We have a board-designated reserve that we borrowed from that the campaign will pay back to the university.”

USG will tour the new Playhouse following its last meeting of the academic year next week.

Hennigan also addressed the vote of no confidence passed by the Full-Time Faculty Assembly at the beginning of the school year in August. The Board of Trustees conducted an independent review, and ultimately redoubled their support of Hennigan. In the months since, Hennigan said the faculty assembly has been working to define its role with administration under its contract also ratified in August.

“The relationship [this year] has been as good as it always was; I’ve always had a good relationship with the faculty, so that hasn’t changed at all,” Hennigan said. “I think the faculty is engaged right now in a really serious process to figure out their role in what is known as ‘shared governance,’ which is in the contract with the administration.”

In addition to its discussion with Hennigan, USG addressed the vacancy left by the resignation of Hayley Hoffman as President Pro-Tempore. Matt Bauman, USG Parliamentarian, discussed the matter with the executive cabinet and moved to leave that position open.

According to Bauman, the new administration led by vice president and president-elect Kaylee Kearns will be installed at next week’s meeting, making a vote for a President Pro-Tempore to serve for one week would be “unnecessary.”

Additionally, Bauman said the Rules Committee is reviewing the drafted constitution of a new club, and hopes to have that club recognized at the next meeting.

The Student Concerns committee met with CulinArt, Point Park’s food service provider, on Saturday. According to Recording Secretary Hannah Steiner, the committee addressed cafe hours and the hours of the coffeehouse set to open this fall. Steiner said CulinArt is no longer allowing students to only provide ID numbers at checkout and must have their ID card in hand when using Flex or a Meal Plan.

President-Elect Kearns has not announced a cabinet yet but will be sworn in as president at USG’s final meeting for the semester April 23.