The Jacksonville State University Board of Trustees handed down a decision
Monday which has been decades in the making.
JSU’s interest in the Little River Canyon area began in the ’70s with
botanical and archeological surveys of the area by JSU professors. Throughout
the years, the school was instrumental in the creation of the national park
center there, helping to negotiate the park boundaries and the sale of Alabama
Then came the idea of a field school there. It was conceived as a place where
students and professors could study and do experiments, a lab facility with
offices for the park officials and room for visitors to learn about Little River
Canyon and the ecology of Northeast Alabama.
Funding from grants and other sources totaling $6,195,000 has been applied
for and a building, originally designed with every hope and dream included, has
been redesigned to keep the most important elements and stay in the budget.
On Monday, when the trustees unanimously approved the bid from Eidson and
Associates of Cullman for $5,995,000 the final step was taken to begin this
“All of this is on a fast track now because this is the construction season
and we want to get as much done as we can before the big rains come,” said Pete
Conroy, director of JSU’s field schools.
The field school has already begun to teach classes of children and college
students about the joys of nature. Many have enjoyed the walks and hikes
sponsored by JSU as well as the Frog Pond Adventures and other activities. Now
with the bid approval, Conroy sees the pace picking up on JSU’s new home at the
“My own children at Kitty Stone Elementary have gone on field trips to the
facility, so it will be a wonderful, wonderful thing,” said JSU President
William Meehan, “Environmentally, it is the largest gorge with the most
biodiversity east of the Mississippi.”
At the meeting, the trustees also heard from Bill Curtis of East Alabama
Planning and Mickey Hall of Skipper Consulting about a recent study on the
feasibility of a bus system at JSU and throughout the surrounding community.
The study took into account the number of parking spaces at the school and
the peak parking times. Researchers spoke to students about the issues they saw
in the current parking situation and whether or not they would ride a bus to
class if it were available.
The study found most JSU students would be willing to ride a bus to class if
it was available. About 98 percent said they would ride, but Hall said from
experience that only about 60 percent will actually use the system.
He recommended the board consider a bus system, using grants to defray much
of the cost and increasing either student parking fees or charging the students
a transit fee to pay for the rest.
“There is a demand for transit services on the JSU campus and also for
transit services in some areas of the city of Jacksonville,” said Hall.
The newly elected executives of the Student Government Association were on
hand at the meeting to meet the board, so Meehan asked the students for their
All believed the system would be a benefit to JSU, both by bringing the
students together in a new social environment as well as by alleviating student
concerns about parking. However, several of the students said they didn’t feel
they would ever use such a system, preferring to pay extra to drive around
campus or walk to class.
In addition to service around campus, Skipper Consulting also looked at the
feasibility of including routes into the Jacksonville community, possibly
allowing students and Jacksonville residents to take the bus to area stores.
After the last board meeting in January, Jim Bennett, the board’s chairman,
requested a demonstration of how the university plans to achieve its goal of
10,000 students by 2010.
In answer to Bennett’s request, Dr. Rebecca Turner, vice president of
Academic Affairs, and Tim Garner, marketing consultant, updated the recruitment
plan, including many of the marketing strategies they have recently begun to
Playing up the degrees offered online, adding scholarships and expanding the
schedule to allow for more creative class scheduling are many of the academic
ways of increasing enrollment. In addition, the school will soon actively market
itself to students through a $300,000 to $500,000 public relations campaign.
“I already believe that this is key to the image and the vitality of this
institution and the forward movement of our university. I know many members of
the board share my opinion that we ought to do all we can and have a planned
implementation to reach the announced goal of 10,000 students by 2010,” said
Bennett. “This is one of the most important things that I think this institution
should now focus on.”
At the meeting, the board also:
• Approved a recommendation from the Academic Affairs Committee to accept the
university’s strategic diversity plan.
• Approved a recommendation from the Athletic Committee to allow a third of
all revenue from a guaranteed game in any sport to go to the coaches in that
sport for discretionary purposes. The remainder of the revenue from the games
will go to the athletic department.
• Approved a resolution not to raise tuition for the 2007-08 school year and
to raise the late registration fee from $30 to $100 while dropping the drop/add
• Heard from Athletic Director Jim Fuller about the new scoreboards being
installed at Paul Snow Stadium. The new equipment should be operational in time
for graduation later this month.
• Heard from Meehan about capital projects underway around campus, including
Chimney Peak Observatory, the art department annex building and dishwasher
replacements in Jack Hopper Dining Hall.