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A planned building for Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs at Manhattanville has not yet secured funding, potentially pushing back its completion date.

The School of International and Public Affairs is slated to move into a new building in Manhattanville by 2020, but few updates on fundraising have led some to cast doubt on the project.

The building, which is part of Columbia's Manhattanville expansion, has not yet secured funding, potentially pushing back its completion date. 

"The original hope for breaking ground on a new building is very unlikely to happen," SIPA professor John Mutter said.

SIPA Associate Dean Patrick Bohan, who deals with finance and administration, expressed further doubt about the new building, and said there are "no definitive plans" at this point for SIPA to move to Manhattanville.

"Our long-term objective is to develop a new site in Manhattanville," Bohan said. "But, has there been a specific designation that we will begin fundraising? Not that I'm aware of."

The planned building, which would be designed by Renzo Piano, is part of Phase I of the Manhattanville expansion project. According to the Manhattanville expansion plan, Phase I should be complete by 2020. By that point, the construction will encompass the area between Broadway and 12th Avenue from 125th Street to 131st Street.

A spokesperson for SIPA said that there were no updates on the fundraising initiatives for the building, and that no plans for the building had been made or released.

"The University can confirm that the School of International and Public Affairs has been designated to move to Manhattanville's new campus eventually, but beyond that there is nothing to add," the spokesperson said.

The University Senate saw preliminary plans for the building in November 2013, according to former University Senator Shree Sinha, SIPA '14.

In 2011, Joe Ienuso, Columbia's executive vice president for facilities and operations, told Spectator that the SIPA building will be the last part of Phase I to be completed, which means that its fundraising will be behind that of the other Phase I buildings.

But it seems that fundraising for the SIPA building has not begun.

"They're out looking for money, and if they do get a private donor who is willing to donate a substantial amount of money, they can hit the target they have been aiming for," Mutter said. "But that person has yet to be identified."

SIPA has raised $130 million since 2005 as part of its $150 million capital campaign, but that money is allocated for classroom supplies, scholarships, and building maintenance, Bohan said.

According to Mutter, fundraising can be especially difficult in a graduate school for public policy, whose graduates tend to not be as wealthy as those from other Columbia schools.

"Many of the MBA people out of the Business School, for example, go to Wall Street and make a lot of money," Mutter said. "Most SIPA grads don't go to a place like that. They go to foreign service, NGOs, and positions around the world to make the world a better place, which is wonderful work, but doesn't make as good an income."

SIPA is currently housed in the International Affairs Building, which is located at 420 West 118th Street, on the Morningside Heights campus.

The building, which was built in 1970, is also used by the political science and economics departments, in addition to being the home of the Lehman Library and a language resource center.

"My understanding is that the building is currently housing twice the number of people it was designed for. Classroom space is in short supply," Mutter said. "It's not a bad building There are just a lot of students who need to be accommodated."

Having more space for teaching and collaborating will allow SIPA to better train its students, Mutter said. He noted that master's program students do not currently have their own space, forcing them to crowd the library.

"Honestly, I hardly ever studied in Lehman, just because it was always crowded," Sinha said.

Although Bohan could not definitively point to a designated time when SIPA will end up moving to Manhattanville, he remains optimistic about the project.

"I certainly expect we will be moving to Manhattanville," he said.

Aaron Fisher contributed reporting.  |  @dylanjcoop

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