ANNAPOLIS — Western Maryland College's president asked a legislative committee for a $1.9 million grant yesterday, saying the college "simply can't continue to function as a first-rate academic institution" without improvements to its 77-year-old science building.
The college's reputation and enrollment are suffering, teaching and research are being hampered and safety requirements are not being met because the Lewis Hall of Science is an outmoded facility lacking the space and lab amenities to meet current needs, President Robert H. Chambers told the House Appropriations Committee.
Delegate Richard N. Dixon, an Appropriations Committee member, issponsoring a bill requesting the state grant -- contingent upon the Westminster college matching the contribution -- to be used to construct and equip a new wing to the science hall.
WMC officials also made a presentation on the same bill to the Senate Budget and TaxationCommittee yesterday.
The governor tentatively has set aside about$6 million in the state's fiscal 1992 capital budget for construction projects identified by the Maryland Independent College and University Association. Officials from the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and Villa Julie College in Baltimore County also made pitches for about $4.1 million in grants.
"At a time when budgets for colleges are stretched, it's even more important to get seed money from thestate for these projects to keep the colleges competitive and viable," said Beth Garraway, association president. "A college's ability tomaintain quality faculty and academic programs is inextricably linked to the quality of facilities."
Though Dixon said chances for approval are bright, WMC Dean of Planning and Research LeRoy Panek said nothing can be banked upon when budgets are tight.
"We're confident of the cause," he said. "It is something we need very badly."
Construction of the estimated $7.8 million, 21,000-square-foot project is set to begin in March 1992, but can't commence without state assistance, said Chambers.
Lewis Hall, WMC's only science building, wasbuilt in 1914 and expanded in 1966. The existing facility lacks watertight floors and handicapped access, has a poor air-circulation system and overburdened electrical supply system, and lacks lab space to conduct modern scientific work and to store toxic and flammable chemical supplies and waste.
Chambers and Dixon submitted testimony to the committee demonstrating that WMC science graduates had scored higher on medical school admission tests than those from many of the nation's most highly regarded universities.
WMC students frequently have assisted faculty in scientific research, co-authoring reports in scientific journals, said Chambers. Faculty members also have attracted widespread attention with their research, he said.