"I've built airfields in Morocco and ports in Thailand," said Joseph I. Gurfein, strolling across the crabgrass quadrangle of George Mason University in Fairfax County. "Now I'm building a school."
Gurfein, a 26-year veteran of the Army Crops of Engineers, is George Mason's top planner, and sometimes it seems as if the school is going up as fast as a wartime airfield or port.
Under construction or on the drawing board are two new academic buildings, 500 units of student housing, a dining hall, a field house and a theater that is an architectural twin to Arena Stage's Kreeger Theater.
While other universities around the country are retrenching in the face of stable and even dropping student enrollments, George Mason, the state university for Northern Virginia, continues to grow as if the expansionist 1960s' never ended.
In 1967, the school had 575 students. It will have around 11,000 next fall and, President George W. Johnson said, "We could easily be at 18,000 by 1986 if we could digest that many.
How many students George Mason can digest depends to a great extent on master builder Gurfein, who is in charge of planning everything from labortories to parking lots.
Planning for parking alone is an awesome task. Almost everyone at George Mason comes by car. The school has issued parking permits to 22,000 students, faculty and other staff, but there are only 4,000 parking spaces. As Gurfein said, "You don't dare leave your parking space for lunch, If you do you will lose it."
Gurfein said 2,000 additional spaces will have to be created to accommodate expected growth in the midterm. At $500 a space, the cost to the university will be $1 million. Eventually, according to the master plan, 157 of the university's 567 acres will have to be paved for parking.
Gurfein's building program has encountered little opposition. As one faculty member, who did not want to be quoted by name, said, "Everyone knew more growth would means more quality and, in turn, that would means higher salaries."
But issue is the almost entirely undeveloped knew more growth would mean more quality and, in turn, that would mean higher salaries."
But lately the building program is embroiled in controversy.
At issue is the most entirely undeveloped west campus, 200 acres, mostly forest, where George Mason's planners forest, an athletic complex with a field house and a group of buildings that could house the professional schools Johnson is convinced his school will one day have.
[This fall George Mason will get its first professional school when it takes over the International School of Law at its new Metro Center campus in Airlington's Clarendon section.]
Officials of the State Council on Higher Education reportedly are upset that George Mason is even considering the possibility of adding a medical or dental school to compete with schools of the same type at other Virginia universities. Earlier, the college and overcome opposition to its longtime efforts to add a law school.
The most immediate problem, though, centers around George Mason's attempt to get a sewer line extended to the west campus, on the west side of Rte. 123 opposite main campus. In a letter drafted by Gurfein, Johnson asked Fairfax County to "join us in this project" and extend the sewer line to adjacent areas not owned by the university, including a tract owned by Fairfax developer and zoning attorney John T. Hazel Jr., who is also a member of the college's board.
If the sewer line were to be extended as the Gurfein-Johnson letter proposed, the other areas ccould help pay for the pumping station and other facilities that would be required -- and thus reduce the coast for George Mason.
But Supervisor Audrey Moore [DAnnadale] a slow-growth advocate who is a frequent adversary of Hazel's, said the proposal smacked of conflict of interest. More disturbing, she said, it threatens to open a large and environmentally sensitive area to sewer lnes, and this urbanization.She thinks the sewer line should be confined to the college.
Gurfein, reluctant to enlarge the controversy, simply said: "That's a question for the county.
But the state Council on the Environment, at the prodding of Moore, has some questions about the sewer proposal. The council can get involved because the iniversity and the land for the west campus are state owned.
Gurfein is unruffled by the controversy. He's taking too much satisfaction in his job to let that happen. "Because I came here," he said," I was an administrator at Federal City College. An administrator never sees any concrete results. But here, I can look out the window and see the buildings that I planned." CAPTION: Picture, George Mason University planner Joseph I. gurfein stands in GMU's theartre-to-be on Fairfax campus. By James M. Thresher -- The Washington Post