Campus braces for leaky structures; community shares concerns

Evan Pflugradt

As storms threaten the Wichita area this weekend, Wichita State is bracing for more flooding in some of its buildings. 

McKnight Hall and the Ulrich Museum of Art have been cleared of the water that leaked into the building after record rain last weekend, university officials said. But the art buildings weren’t the only ones to sustain water damage. 

Classes had to be moved from Ahlberg Hall, Elliott Hall and Corbin Hall Monday as the university began cleaning efforts to remove water from the buildings.

University spokesman Joe Kleinsasser said the university has reported water leaks in Ahlberg, Elliott, Corbin Hall, the Rhatigan Student Center and Charles Koch Arena.

McKnight Hall was one of the first to report damages last week after the relocation of “Coded_Couture,” an exhibition held at the Ulrich Museum of Art.

The School of Art, Design and Creative Industries recognized the damages this week in a formal statement.

“Water leaks in McKnight are an unfortunate reality for faculty, staff and students working in the building,” the release stated. “The School of Art, Design, and Creative Industries recognizes the specific impact this makes on our talented, hard-working students.”

Lindsey DeVries, author of the statement, said renovations are planned for Henrion Hall, and the school will continue efforts to address the “much needed” repairs in McKnight.

The Henrion Renovation project has an estimated cost of $8 million, and is to be funded by the University Foundation and WSU. WSU will match $4 million when the foundation reaches the same mark.

While fundraising efforts for the foundation are on-going, some are questioning possible neglect by the university for standard upkeep to McKnight and other campus buildings. 

Michelle Wolfe, WSU alumnae, shared her grievances with The Sunflower.

“My daughter is paying the same amount of tuition as any other student in the other areas, yet is forced to attend and work in leaking, non-air conditioned, non-heated buildings,” Wolfe said via social media. “Why go to WSU for the arts? Either not have them or keep the monies spread evenly across campus, no matter who makes you the most profit. 

“It’s a state educational institution first,” she said. 

Julia Beadles, another WSU alumnae, shared her thoughts. 

“It seems like there is a lot of neglect,” Beadles said. “Henrion, where I took ceramic classes, was deplorable.”

Beadle, who started taking classes at WSU in 1979, said she believes the fine arts are getting the “short-end of the deal.” 

“For WSU as a whole, the priority university-wide is more focused on the whiz-bang technology and such.”

McKnight was constructed in 1964 to site the house visual arts after the first Morrison Library — the current site of the Ulrich Museum of Art — was destroyed in a fire in 1964. According to university records, WSU made additions to McKnight in 1975 and 1995. 

Henrion Hall opened doors in 1921. Additions were constructed to the building in 1928, 1930 and 1937.