Leuphana’s Board of Trustees advances campus development

Lüneburg. Leuphana University of Lüneburg will request from the Government of Lower Saxony an eight-month extension to the implementation period for completing construction on the new central building. The University’s Board of Trustees came to this decision at its regularly scheduled session on June 7, 2013.  The Oversight Board has determined, furthermore, that the necessary provisions have been made in light of the building’s rising construction costs and that a coherent financial model is in place. Dr. Volker Meyer-Guckel, chair of the Board of Trustees, considers this an important step in securing backing for this ambitious project: “We were able to determine that those responsible within the University have carefully and prudently addressed all the relevant issues, including the rising costs and delays, which in themselves cannot be ascribed to the university,” Meyer-Guckel said at the conclusion of the session.  With these new resolutions, the Board of Trustees has sent a clear signal regarding the successful conclusion of the building project.

During their meeting, members of the Board of Trustees were informed in detail about the current status of the construction work on the university’s new central building. It became clear above all that a late start on construction because of a single resident’s legal complaint, delivery problems by a technical planner, and an unusually long frost last winter put the construction project behind schedule. It therefore became necessary to push the official completion date back to August 31, 2015. In light of this situation, the Board of Trustees decided to request an extension to the construction time frame for the project from the Government of Lower Saxony. This decision assumes that the postponement will not alter availability of already allocated funds, from the European Union or any other source.

The Board of Trustees estimated that 7.5 million Euros in additional funding would be required for the construction project. The project’s cost increases resulted, among other reasons, from an increase in the building cost index after the initial plans had been completed. Such price increases cannot be anticipated in the application process for financial planning of public buildings in Lower Saxony. They lie outside of the control of the building’s developer, the Trustees of the University of Lüneburg. In order to cover the additional costs, the university has made the necessary provisions in its real estate operations. Reductions in teaching, research or other public responsibilities of the university will not be required. The steps necessary to implement this new financial plan have been approved by the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees intends furthermore to appoint an advisory council that will be given the task of bringing the construction of the central building to a speedy conclusion in a practical and consensus-building manner.  The council will be composed of external experts who will work together with representatives of the Trustees and the Ministry of Science. The Trustees have urgently requested the Ministry to take an active role in the council.

The Board of Trustees also discussed the media response to a confidential report by European Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF). Even now the university has learned about this document only through press accounts, which were leaked to the public as part of an apparent campaign against the university. Media reports detailing conclusions of OLAF’s investigation have caused considerable irritation.  In addition, gross misrepresentations were made, concerning, among other topics, the remuneration given to Daniel Libeskind, the project’s architect and a professor at Leuphana, which in the judgment of the Board of Trustees’ chairperson, Meyer-Guckel, “are irresponsible and defamatory.” Leuphana University has thus called for a legally enforceable cease and desist order on the media to be put into immediate effect.

The University’s forthcoming response to an assessment by Lower Saxony’s Court of Audit in March of this year was also a topic for the Trustees’ discussions.  The auditors had, among other concerns, taken issue with the university’s allocation of consulting contracts.  The Trustees acknowledged the university’s legal position objecting to the assessment. The council expects that the university, as announced, will be able to provide a thorough and substantial public response to the accusations raised in the coming week.