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UMBC acquires district courthouse

The University of Maryland, Baltimore County campus officially garnered the acquisition of the Catonsville District Courthouse building on Sept 3. This reverts the boundaries of the UMBC campus to its original property line.

“We’re excited for the building and property to be a part of the UMBC campus again,” said Vice President of Administration and Finance Lynne Schaefer. “The expansion of the campus is really wonderful and gives us opportunities for the institution to grow in ways we weren’t able to before.”

The property where the Catonsville District Courthouse stands was originally part of the UMBC campus when the institution opened its doors to students in 1965. In 1977, the property was transferred to the state of Maryland to build the courthouse next to UMBC’s campus. 1982 marked the opening of the courthouse on Wilkens and Walker Avenue, one of the three district courthouses in Baltimore County.

Since 2002, the state has discussed creating a new Catonsville District Courthouse on Rolling Road. On March 9, the construction of the new courthouse officially began on the 130,000 square foot facility in the Rolling Crossroads Professional Park, with the courts expected to be open in 2022. This new facility aims to improve judicial procedures with more courtrooms to hear court cases, space for court visitors, and house services to increase accesses to justices.

The university is currently assessing its best options to move forward with the building during its transitional phase from being a courthouse to a campus facility. It is expected that the courthouse will be vacant in six months for UMBC to evaluate the building.

“First thing we will have to do is an assessment of the building and spaces and determine what will be the best use of it for the university. Having this additional space is an opportunity for us to expand capacity in high academic programs, which would be including but not limited to computing, cyber-security and engineering,” said Schaefer.

Some students have shown disapproval regarding the university’s plans for the new space. Specifically, the announcement’s emphasis on using the building for the STEM fields frustrated non-STEM students who feel UMBC cares more about science and math than the arts.

“It’s ridiculous that the school continues to put the funding, resources, and space towards technology and computer research when other majors are pushed off to the side because those departments aren’t seen as profitable or marketable for the school,” said senior psychology major Jack Taylor. “The school shows clear bias towards STEM research, not including Math even, for how much the other majors at UMBC aren’t shown the same respect. All students and majors pay the same amount for tuition, but that funding continues to lean towards the same areas.”

Taylor explained that the building should not even be used for academics. He explained that puting any classes in the former courthouse would be inconvenient for students to reach. Instead, he suggested making the space cater to UMBC’s residential students due to its close proximity to the Walker Avenue Apartments.

Senior Political science major Thomas Kiley does not have issues with UMBC’s plans for the building further supporting STEM majors. However, he believes that the university should focus on fixing some of the campus’ current buildings before focusing on a new construction project.

“For probably decades now, people have been complaining about the Fine Arts building. From what I’ve seen, the improvements have been minimal and it seems like a weird choice what the university is going for in regards to other construction they’ve done in the past,” said Kiley.

Schaefer explained that, while the initial proposition was for the building to become a facility for cyber security, computer science and engineering, UMBC is still discussing what its final purpose will be.

“The students of the community can expect to hear more about the future of that facility in the coming months,” said Schaefer.

Written by Sohei Matsui (