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Lecture halls need renovation

Makeover is coming, but still a ways off

By James P. Quick
On January 25, 2018

L140 is in need of renovation.

L140 and L201, the lecture halls in the L Building, are due for a makeover.

The halls are typically used for chemistry and biology classes, among others, and both are decidedly out of date.

“They stink,” says former professor of Biology Bob Pettit. “The chairs! The springs are gone, you slide forward, the tablets are broken. It’s a crime.”

He’s not the only one with issues regarding the seats.

“The seating definitely needs to be updated and replaced,” says Chemistry professor Michael Fuertes. 

Fuertes has taught in L201. 

“The fold-up desks that the students have are very small. Having sat in those things, I can definitely say I felt very cramped!

“A renovation is needed all around. For cleanliness’s sake, if nothing else.”

Tracy Rayl, professor of Biology, is candid in her feelings on the subject.

“I primarily teach in L140 and the condition currently in there is one of fatigue,” she says. “The rooms have not had any significant attention paid to them, and this is my 19th year of teaching. When I came in 19 years ago, they were already in need of significant updating to bring them into the twenty-first century.”

Rayl also criticizes the seats, noting that they are not conducive to a modern learning environment.

The cramped seats are throwbacks to the 1960s, when they were installed. Now, after five decades with little maintenance, they are falling apart. 
The scarcity of outlets in the halls is also vexing. Some laptops simply do not hold a charge for 70-odd minutes, either due to age, damage, or planned obsolescence on the manufacturer’s part.

“In L140 especially,” Rayl says, “the lighting is poor.”

“Also, I think it might be one of the very last classrooms on campus with a chalkboard in it!”

She also notes that the setup of the room makes it very challenging to perform group work.

The passing of the 2016 millage provided funds to renovate the lecture halls as part of an overall update to the L Building itself. 

“All the classrooms will get updates as far as flooring, paint, ceilings, lighting, all that,” says Jack Burns, Director of Campus Planning and Facilities. 
“The Technology Committee is working on standardizing all the technology and AV equipment. That will be implemented campus-wide when we do all the renovations.”

The lab spaces, which were renovated relatively recently, will not be included in the new renovations, save for the technology 
standardization.

“The problem up to this point,” says Burns, “is that we simply haven’t had money. But with the millage, we do.”

The lecture halls, Burns explains, will get updated seating.  That will decrease the number of seats in each room.

The seating in the lecture halls, such as this chair in L201, are in dire straits.

“It should be done in such a way that students and faculty can decide how to do it,” Pettit says. “Not just one group or the other.”

Faculty and support staff committees, plus students, will be able to discuss and make recommendations on what the renovated rooms will look like, according to Burns. 

“I think it’ll be a good group discussion,” he says.

Rayl has her own suggestions on how to go about this, based on her experience with the renovations of the lab spaces.

“We visited other schools that had recently done lab renovations,” she says. “I would recommend that we find colleges that have done some recent renovations to large lecture halls.

“We can visit them and get some ideas about what those halls could and should look like.”

Burns agrees with this notion, citing case studies.

“At a recent conference I went to, Michigan State converted a lot of their lecture halls and they actually took out the chairs and put in tables,” he says. “That’s the solution I like best, but I think it would be a good thing to talk to students and faculty to see what they think.”

Burns goes on to explain that the table idea appeals to him because it would allow more space for electronics. He also is planning to make the rooms more handicapped-accessible, bringing them in line with the standards set by the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“Make the lecture area up front spongy,” Pettit says. “Currently, it’s cement with a little rag rug. Try standing on that for a while. I eventually just went out and bought a rubber yoga mat and stood on that! Oh, it was so comfortable!”

According to Burns, renovations won’t begin for a couple years yet, once East and West Tech have been renovated and more tax dollars have come in.
Regardless of what happens, Burn said he is certain the seating and AV equipment in both halls will dramatically change.

Oh, and L140 will finally get that whiteboard.

L140 has the one of the last chalkboards on campus.

 

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