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Plans Discussed To Save University Of Guam Planetarium
Upgrade to facility, shift to multi-purpose theater offered

By Dance Aoki

HAGTA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 5, 2013) – Planetarium coordinator Pam Eastlick has a plan that may save the University of Guam (UOG) planetarium.

Instead of closing the planetarium to make way for new science lecture hall as the university proposed, Eastlick suggested upgrading the planetarium with state of the art technology that would enable the university to use the facility for a variety of classes in addition to continuing as a planetarium.

The new technology, Eastlick said, would cost about $200,000.

The upgraded system from Spitz Planetariums would be able to project videos, stills, constellations, and allow audience members to move through space, but it could also be used by any professor as an instructional tool to help them teach their classes, she said.

At a round-table discussion hosted by Speaker Judi Won Pat yesterday, participants, including Sen. Aline Yamashita, UOG President Robert Underwood, Eastlick and several members of the community, presented alternatives to the University's plans to close the planetarium at the end of spring semester.

Underwood suggested using the planetarium's resources to create a portable planetarium that would bring presentations about the night sky to public schools.

The president emphasized that the university would be committed to the transition of the planetarium to a more appropriate facility while the building is remodeled to become a new lecture hall or classroom.

Consideration

However, he would give serious consideration to Eastlick's proposal to transform the planetarium to a multi-purpose theater.

"This is the first I've heard the proposal explained so clearly," Underwood said.

The speaker said that the option to transform the space into a multi-purpose space was the most viable solution of those presented.

"That will allow the planetarium to stay where it is," she added.

Expanding the planetarium to be used as a classroom would limit the available times school children would be able to see a show, however, further discussion can be had in regards to the schedule.

Sen. Aline Yamashita pointed out that the planetarium provides a valuable experience for Guam's families.

She added that the fate of the planetarium is a community issue since it's one of the few facilities Guam's children can go to on field trips for educational experiences.

Yamashita also asked if there has been any conversation about the construction of a future children's or science museum.

Following the round-table discussion, Won Pat said she was very pleased with the suggestions that were made.

She also said that there will be serious discussions will take place in the future about a hands-on children's museum.

"Hopefully one day, when the university feels like it can't continue to sustain (the planetarium), it could go to a children's museum."

Maintenance of the planetarium machinery is covered by a trust fund, so the operational budget of the facility consists of Eastlick's salary -- about $60,000 a year -- plus expenses for electricity and air conditioning.

Eastlick noted that part-time employees, volunteers or other professors could receive the training they need to operate the projector without her.

The trust fund was established with GovGuam money when the planetarium was purchased in the early '90s. The trust fund money can be used only to maintain the facility, so the money in the fund has grown since the fund was created, Eastlick said. There is most likely about $500,000 in the fund, Eastlick said.

All planetarium shows are free, with the exception of the tourism group shows, which cost about $10 per person, Eastlick said. The law that purchased the planetarium in the early '90s established that, since the facility was bought with public funds, the people of Guam should never pay for attendance, Eastlick said.

Underwood will be taking a closer look at Eastlick's proposal, but he maintained that the planetarium does not correlate to any of the academic programs provided by the university.

"The university has to make decisions about academic direction," Underwood said. "It's not towards astrophysics."

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