A University of Montana-affiliated research program has moved twice in the last year in an attempt to consolidate space in the Curry Health Center. Now UM is asking it to pack up once again, this time elbowing the program off campus entirely.
The latest in the ongoing consolidation of the Rural Institute, a developmental disabilities research program, emerged last week when UM signed a five-year lease on an 8,000 square-foot space at 700 SW Higgins Avenue. Facility Services Director Hugh Jesse says UM will pay $11,140 a month in rent for the Rural Institute, including the cost of renovations.
Labs and office space in the health center basement will now house the newly resurrected Department of Communicative Science and Disorders (CSD), a speech sciences program that closed in 1988. The Rural Institute moved out of the building's west wing last spring to make room for CSD and vacated three offices this June ahead of CSD's accreditation panel. Shortly after, the institute received notice to completely relocate by mid-August.
Timm Vogelsberg, executive director of the Rural Institute, declined comment except to say he believes everything will work out fine. For now the atmosphere in the health center basement is one of annoyance. Signs guiding visitors to the institute have been replaced with plaques announcing CSD's return to campus. Costly disability equipment—moved from a west wing lab last year—waits to be repacked and transported.
"My feeling is they're disappointed, don't understand completely why they are not being valued," says Dan Dwyer, vice president of research and development at UM and Vogelsberg's boss. "From their vantage point, I can certainly understand that, but we do value the Rural Institute highly."
The Rural Institute has brought research grant money and notoriety to UM for nearly three decades. Dwyer says the institute will remain an important part of the campus community despite the move.
"In my mind, this is again a temporary solution," Dwyer says. "We're going to continue to try to consolidate these folks into some space that makes sense for everyone involved...We will be working on a plan to reorganize things so the Rural Institute can have their place on campus."
That, of course, will require more packing.