Construction creates science class space squeeze

Due to the delayed renovation of the science quad, students are finding themselves attending physics lectures and computer science classes in classrooms completely unrelated to the sciences. With the physics, chemistry and biology buildings unavailable for spring semester, science courses have been scattered into various buildings around campus.

Jefferson Strait, associate professor of physics and chair of the physics department, said many of the new rooms were too small or not well equipped for teaching science courses. To temporarily ease the problem, they have brought in extra chairs and blackboards. The registrar’s office was aware last spring that at least two of the science buildings were unavailable for this semester and planned accordingly. However, this summer, they were notified the third would be offline too. “We came up with what we know is the best fit in this case. It might not be ideal but as far as I know, everyone has a classroom,” associate registrar Barbara Casey said.

Originally set for December, the finish date for the biology building has been pushed back to May. Currently, the physics and chemistry buildings are scheduled to be available in the middle of July. The science department is worried the schedule might be postponed, not leaving them enough time to prepare for fall classes.

“It took us about a month to move out of the physics building. It’s going to take us a month to move back in,” Strait said. “If by chance, things get postponed and we can’t get into there until September, it’s going to cause problems for our lab courses in the fall because we’ve stored a lot of the equipment for those courses.”

In the meantime, many professors are changing their class format to adapt to the new classrooms. Assistant professor of physics Daniel Aalberts has gone from making extensive use of blackboards to doing his lectures with overheads. Associate professor of computer science Duane Bailey has been conducting his courses in Griffin, a building normally set aside for Division I and II classes.

“When I first started teaching there, people thought I was crazy to walk clear across campus, but it’s an excellent facility and the classroom style is very different over there,” Bailey said. “I think it leads to a more interactive class.”

Students are noticing the changes in the class structure. Danielle Gulick ’01, said, “None of the classrooms…have computer setups, so we waste class time dragging the necessary equipment back and forth. Also, the lack of blackboards has forced teachers to use transparencies almost completely—which takes a lot more time than just scribbling on boards.” Jennifer Sawaya ’02, added, “My chemistry professor was blowing stuff up and there wasn’t even a sink.”

Other departments are starting to feel the lack of space as well. Strait explained that in the past, each department had a space that it considered its own. Now, departments assuming they have first priority for certain spaces are finding them already in use and have to go through the calendar office to reserve a space. In spite of the inconvenience, Bailey said the mixing of departments in the buildings has allowed him to meet people from different divisions that he normally would not have run into.

Despite all the problems that the lack of classroom space is causing, faculty and students are enthusiastic for the future. “We have high hopes for what the lecture rooms will be like after the renovation,” Strait said. “They should be much better adapted to teaching.”

Gulick explained, “We are already in the Morley labs, which are much more modern and efficient than the old labs. It is a pleasant change to work in them, and I think that the entire science area will be much improved if the classrooms are of similar quality.”

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