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Peace University accepts controversial plan for $6 million in renovations

The newly coed William Peace University is tacking on more changes, sparking further unhappiness from many alumnae.

Recently approved renovations will update the campus and add male athletic teams, but some are still not satisfied with these decisions.

Last month, members of the Board of Trustees of Peace, which is located in Raleigh, accepted a $6 million multi-year plan to enhance the Hermann Athletic Center, create more meeting and recreational space in its student center and relocate the president’s house to downtown Raleigh.

The renovations are set to begin this spring and will include a fitness center and men’s and women’s locker rooms. The university will also relocate the bookstore and update the dining hall among other renovations.

The recent approval of renovations follows in the wake of protests from alumnae, who were unhappy about Peace College’s July announcement that it would be transitioning away from an all-female campus to a coed university.

The renovations will be funded by donations, the university’s capital campaign, gifts from alumnae and external financing.

“Applications are up, interest is up, and there has been a great enthusiasm among men to have another option for college in Raleigh,” said R. Donavon Munford Jr., a Board of Trustees member.

Protesters like E.B. Watson, a 2007 Peace graduate, disapprove of the recent renovations and blame the university’s current president, Debra Townsley.

“These expenditures seem reckless, at best,” Watson stated in an email.

Watson said the school has already cut majors, faculty and staff and even toilet paper spending.

She said she was concerned about support for women’s athletic programs.

In addition to the six women’s sports already present at the school — basketball, soccer, volleyball, tennis, cross country and softball — men’s basketball, cross country and golf will be added in the fall, said Kelly Johnson, athletic director and women’s basketball coach.

The women compete at a Division III level in the South Athletic Conference, but Johnson said the male athletes will compete as a developmental varsity team, which includes playing junior and community colleges.

“That will give us a year to get the program going,” Johnson said.

Former UNC-CH junior varsity basketball player Claude Shields will become head men’s basketball and golf coach, Johnson said.

Although Watson said she disapproves of the recent decisions made by the president and board, she said she and other protesters won’t abandon their alma mater.

“We are not going away,” she said. “We love Peace and want to restore its integrity as an institution for higher learning, whether it is single-sex or coed.”

Contact the State & National Editor at state@dailytarheel.com.

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