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Port: The fight over NDSU’s Dunbar Hall reveals an ugly truth about our priorities in higher education

Fargo firefighters responding to a fire at Dunbar Hall, the outdated chemistry building at North Dakota State University that does not meet current fire and safety codes. Legislators are backing a $51.2 million replacement, but the proposal still needs final approval. Forum file photo

Dunbar Hall is a chemistry lab building on the North Dakota State University campus. It’s also in embarrassingly bad condition, and has been for some time. Back in 2014 the Associated Press was reporting that people who work in the building had to lug water because the pipes didn’t work.

In June of 2017 fire inspectors found significant violations in the building.

In December of 2017 the building literally caught fire.

“For 20 years we’ve had metallic dust particles blowing out of the ventilation, covering our labs,” Greg Cook, chairman of the chemistry department, told the NDSU Spectrum in a report earlier this month.

Things are bad.

Really bad.

This session the Legislature is poised to appropriate some money to fix the building. The bill emerged from the Senate earlier this year with a $51.2 million appropriation, but the House wanted less. Negotiators from each chamber have hashed out a compromise this week. “A House-Senate conference committee agreed to $40 million in bonding, $8 million in cash and authorization to raise $3.2 million for a total of $51.2 million,” John Hageman reports.

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