An alumnus who has given Washington State University $1.5 million in state-of-the-art computer gear is threatening to start a donor boycott with a statewide newspaper advertising campaign.
Warren Mack Lindsey says the WSU School of Architecture has mishandled his gifts of computers and software that students use to learn computer-aided drafting and building design.
WSU took no initiative to train faculty and students on the computers, and hasn’t tried to raise additional money to keep the equipment upgraded, Lindsey said.
“It’s way beyond disappointment,” said Lindsey, a 1976 graduate of the architecture program who now lives in Seattle.
Kirk Wise, chairman of the architecture school’s alumni advisory board, blames the dispute in part on misunderstanding among school administrators and Lindsey.
Robert Altenkirch, the dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture, said he hasn’t talked to Lindsey about concerns over the computers.
“The hardware and software gifts have been installed,” said Altenkirch, who wasn’t dean when Lindsey made his first donation more than three years ago.
‘It’s basically revolutionized what’s being done in this school. The gifts have well-positioned the school technologically,” he said.
He added the school is “providing the support resources” for the computers.
Geoff Gamble, interim WSU provost, said he plans to meet with Lindsey but doesn’t know the details of his concerns. “I think I’ve been vaguely aware of it,” he said.
Lindsey, whose family made its fortune in the soft drink business, said he first gave 20 computers to the school in 1993.
The unsolicited gift was intended to put computers on the desks of third- and fourth-year architecture students, Lindsey said.
He said he nearly withdrew his gift after the then-dean of the College of Engineering and Architecture complained Lindsey was using the donation to dictate how students should be taught.
Lindsey claimed an administrator told him after the 1993 gift that some professors had no intention of learning how to use or teach with the computers.
“When Mack’s gift came about, there were teachers so contrary to the whole thing they wouldn’t let students use them in the classroom,” Wise said.
Despite those problems, Lindsey donated 116 more machines the following year.
He said WSU couldn’t come up with the money to train students how to use them, so he spent $40,000 to fly two architects from Seattle to Pullman once a week for two semesters, to train students.
Lindsey continued donating computers to WSU, and has now given about 250 machines for both architecture and construction management students.
He said the construction management program is making good use of the computers.
Wise said that at one point, he and Lindsey were trying to figure out how to set up an annuity to provide money for ongoing equipment upgrades. “I think that’s pretty much out the window,” said Wise.
Altenkirch said he’d be glad to sit down with Lindsey to talk about an annuity.
Now, both Wise and Lindsey are concerned the computers are becoming obsolete, and school administrators have discussed the possibility of requiring that students provide their own computers. , DataTimes
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