New president’s suite is open for business, up for controversy

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Photo Credit: Aubrey Zych '14

Kailey McDonald '15, Staff Writer
October 24, 2013
Filed under News & Features, Top Stories

The new president’s suite features cherry-veneer desks, tables and shelving units made by The Gunlocke Company. The boardroom includes an 80-inch flat-screen display, as well as a 19-person conference table. The informal conference area has a smaller wooden conference table by J. & L. G. Stickley, who also made the president’s personal desk. A Keurig Brewer is available for guest use in the reception room.

President Dr. Fred Pestello’s new suite has raised a controversy on campus among the campus community. Some students say the new president’s quarters is lavish, particularly for a school devoted to Jesuit principles. Others say the price tag for all of the construction was too high, considering where cuts are coming from elsewhere.

Bradford Wiggins, a senior, questioned how the renovations reflect Le Moyne’s Jesuit mission. Wiggins is heavily involved in Le Moyne’s various service projects, which included a trip to Dominica where he worked at an infirmary.

“The first thing that popped into my head as I walked into the president’s new office were the images from my service trips,” Wiggins said. “That extreme poverty juxtaposed to this office. To be honest, it made me sad.”

Yet, administrators say the suite is fitting for the college president and the students he represents.

“We want our president to reside in an area that honors the students that he serves on a daily basis,” Dr. Linda LeMura, provost and vice president of academic affairs, said. “We don’t want our president to bring in guests on the campus to a space that looks unimpressive, for lack of a better word.”

The president’s new office suite is now open, permanently relocated in Grewen Hall after three months of construction and renovations. The president’s office was previously located in Mitchell Hall prior to the Madden School of Business renovations. Since the renovations, Pestello had temporarily worked in Reilly Hall.

Located on the second floor of Grewen Hall, the president’s suite measures 2,292 square feet, including a large reception room, the president’s conference room, an additional less formal conference area, a kitchen, a copy and file room, the assistant to the president’s office, as well as Dr. Pestello’s personal office.

The total cost of all office renovations in Grewen Hall 209 added up to $1.3 million. These renovations also included the offices of Human Resources, Bursar, Payroll, Finances, as well as the president’s suite. The Financial Services office declined to comment on specific costs, and no one was able to provide the exact cost of the president’s suite.

Pestello said that’s because all of the construction was priced together, not separately.

“We did a number of construction projects that were all rolled together,” Pestello explained. “It’s like building a house. We contract somebody; say we want all of these things. They give you a price [for all of the construction] and that’s the price.”

But for some students on campus, Pestello’s explanation wasn’t enough.

“I would’ve liked to know the breakdown,” Claire Kennedy, a senior, said. “Exactly just how much money he’s spending. The students should’ve had some input.”

Adam Thorne, a junior, agreed that the spending could’ve been put to better use.

“That money could have easily kept Tom Meunch around,” he said.

Tom Muench was the college’s assistant director of admissions before his position was eliminated in budget cuts this summer. He was one of 13 part-time employees that was laid off.

Roger Stackpoole, vice president of finance and administration, said despite rumors, the project was actually more economical than most other renovations on campus.

“For the entire wing, we paid an average of $170 per square foot,” he said. “For renovations, the cost per square foot is usually $200 to $300, or $350 to $450 for new construction, which some parts of this project required. We stayed quite under-budget.”

Stackpoole also added that most of the furniture was bought at a discounted price, though no exact prices could be provided.

Despite costs however, Wiggins said the president’s suite was just too extravagant.

“Le Moyne prides itself on its focus on service and learning,” he said. “You don’t need those material things for service. They’re luxuries, and that goes against Christian values.”

“I have a problem with just how overdone it is,” Thorne added. “Even just the sheer size. They could’ve given the president less space.”

Yet, LeMura disagreed, saying the president is the face of the college, and his office should show that.

“The president is representing the administration, the faculty, the staff, but most importantly, he’s representing the students,” she said. “The space should reflect that. When you take a look at the investments in the faculty and the infrastructure so that they can do their jobs well, the investments in office spaces are a drop in the bucket.”

Rev. David McCallum, interim dean of the Madden School of Business, says the office may raise concerns, but he believes it was constructed as an investment in the college and its future, and not just a sudden splurge.

“When we are in a time of economic challenges, to see investments made in offices, to see nice furniture being moved in … It’s natural that people say ‘where’s the priority here?’” said McCallum. “But I do think that these investments are not about investments in particular administrators, but offices that are meant to last for the foreseeable future.”

Students can see the office for themselves on Friday, Oct. 25 when the college will host a blessing of the new space. The blessing will take place at 3 p.m., immediately followed by a reception until 4:30 p.m. All members of the campus are invited to celebrate the return of the president’s office to Grewen Hall.