$10M classroom renovation project faces complaints

By Lisa Heller
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 31, 1996

A four-hour open house in the Harvill Building yesterday brought faculty, staff and members of a renovation team together to discuss problems and solutions of a five-year classroom renovation project.

The $10 million project started last year, said Michael Urena, supervisor of equipment services in the University Teaching Center.

Urena said the goal of the project was to look at replacing or fixing classroom teaching tools, such as writing surfaces and audio visual equipment, and improving classroom infrastructures, such as tables and chairs, heating and cooling, lighting and acoustics.

The first phase of the project, which was split into two phases by the fiscal year, was completed over the summer. Urena said the project should be completed about 1999. Renovated rooms include 18 in the Harvill Building, 13 in Physics and Atmospheric Sciences, one in the Shantz Building, one in the Forbes Building, two in Chemistry, one in Family and Consumer Resources, three in the Harshbarger Building, and two in the Center for English as a Second Language.

Phase two room renovations include 12 in the Harvill Building, nine in Social Sciences, two in Music and one in the Art building. Faculty and staff from the renovated rooms and the rooms to be renovated during the second phase were invited to attend the open house.

"We have trouble getting support and information from faculty, staff and students," Urena said. "We want to make sure everyone was reached."

One common complaint from open house attendants was the white boards that were installed in the classrooms. The boards did not erase well and white board pens were not readily accessible to faculty.

"The real problem is that the rooms that were already renovated are not working properly," said mathematics professor Daniel Madden. "Why are we moving on to a second renovation?"

Urena said the white boards had a manufacturer's defect and hopes they will be replacedfor free.

A second complaint discussed at the open house was the number of students per classroom and how many seats are available. Urena said the replacement of fixed seating with tables and chairs caused a loss in the number of seats available.

He said the Registrar's Office sets a number of students that can enroll in each class that is different than the number of students the classrooms were designed to hold.

The answer is to move forward and look at the problems a year ahead of time, said John Adams, facilities project manager for Facilities Management.

"Then, if there's a problem, there's a semester to fix it," Adams said. "These are the types of comments we need to know so we can address it before they become a first-day-of-class problem."

A third problem addressed in the open house was the heating and cooling in the classrooms. Adams said the heating and cooling in Harvill will be upgraded.

"Because the building is fairly new, it will be simple and relatively inexpensive to fix," he said.

The upgrade will cost $275,000.

The comments also focused on Social Sciences, Room 100, which will be renovated this summer. The room is the largest classroom on campus, Urena said.

The classroom should be ready to use the first day of classes in fall 1997. If not, Urena said he reserved Gallagher Theatre to use as a backup.

He said the inconvenience would last a couple of days at the most.

Steve Wright, physiology professor, teaches in Social Sciences 100. He said with his 350 to 400 students, he needs a large classroom.

"I am pleased in the ideas generated in the open house," he said.

"I think they're very sincere about getting faculty input, but we'll have to wait and see how everything turns out."