Photo by Anna Meassick | Signs can be seen across campus and the state to vote yes on 2 which includes funding for RIC and URI.

On Election Day, Rhode Island citizens will vote on the much talked about Question 2 on campus that would affect funding of higher education facilities.

The proposed $70 million bond would fund facilities at Rhode Island College and the University of Rhode Island if the majority of Rhode Islanders vote for it. $45 million will be distributed to URI’s Narragansett Bay Campus to fund new facilities and $25 million will go towards renovations of RIC’s Horace Mann Hall, which houses the School of Education and Human Development.

“Voters this November have the opportunity to invest in our future by approving Question 2 and supporting Rhode Island’s top-notch institutions of higher learning,” Governor Gina Raimondo said earlier this month at the formal launching of the Vote Yes on 2 campaign. “By pushing URI’s exploration of our oceans to new depths and ensuring that RIC can meet the demands of educating tomorrow’s teachers, we’ll send a clear message that Rhode Island is committed to moving forward.”

According to Bruce Corliss, dean of the Graduate School of Oceanography, the bond would allow for the construction of a larger dock and two new buildings that are needed for URI’s upcoming $125 million research vessel. The vessel was awarded to the University by the National Science Foundation and is set for completion by 2021.
The Marine Operations Building would be 12,000 square feet and is necessary to support the research vessel. The 20,000-square-foot Ocean Technology Center would be used for education and research for marine disciplines such as marine biology and ocean engineering.

“The Ocean Technology building will be something that undergraduates and graduate students would use,” Corliss said. “The ocean engineers have quite a few undergraduates on campus. It would provide state of the art technology facilities to support the educational mission of both engineering and oceanography.”

Corliss said that if the referendum is passed, the results will not only benefit URI, but the state as a whole.

“It’s an investment from the state to URI that will pay off in terms of the educational activities it would carry out, but also will contribute to developing the blue economy,” Corliss said. “The Narragansett Bay Campus each year has an economic impact of about $43 to $44 million per year. Over the last 10 years, the campus has brought in $330 million of research support. We expect over the next 30 years the research activities will be a billion dollars or more.”

According to URI President David Dooley, the question landed on the ballot because the University requests certain projects during its annual budget request. The governor then has to decide whether or not to recommend the initiative, and the state legislature approves it.

The bond will be part of the first step in updating the Narragansett Bay Campus, according to Dooley. He said that the Bay Campus is due for refurbishment.
“The last project was in 2009, the Ocean Science and Exploration Center opening,” Dooley said. “Other than that we haven’t done any significant work on the Narragansett Bay campus for over 25 years.”

There are more construction plans to follow if the bond is passed. “We know that one of the things we need to do is build a brand new research building to house scientists who do a lot of research on shore,” Dooley said. “The current labs are obsolete, and it’s more cost effective to build new research buildings.”
Many students, such as senior ocean engineering major Jared Mattern, are also supportive of the bond.

“The ocean, after all, occupies 70 percent of the earth with 40 percent of the human population living near the coast,” Mattern said. “Investing in facilities that will produce future cutting-edge research that will be used around the world to further our understanding of the ocean is a no-brainer.”