VOLUME 31, NUMBER 14 THURSDAY, December 2, 1999

Classroom space discussed
FSEC members say lack of space, poor quality affects work

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Reporter Assistant Editor

The lack of sufficient classroom space and the poor quality of many classrooms on both campuses were topics of discussion at the Nov. 17 meeting of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee.

Faculty members told Nicolas Goodman, vice provost for undergraduate education, that they were at a loss as to how to have classroom problems addressed in a timely manner and that these problems were interfering with their ability to provide a quality educational experience.

"We do not have enough classrooms," Goodman told the FSEC. "The limiting variable here is lack of space. In my own experience, it is easier to get money than it is to get space. You can borrow money; you can't borrow space."

He added that while the classroom utilization rate is about 85-90 percent on campus, the 8 a.m. class periods and Friday-afternoon slots are not utilized fully.

"I don't claim that the system is perfect," said Goodman, adding that "we are using the space much more efficiently than in the recent past." He said future construction of the student services building will free up some classroom space, but that in the meantime, "there is a lot of space in the individual units that is not centrally scheduled" that could be made available by those units.

Specific classroom-quality problems raised at the meeting included the lack of clocks in classrooms, a blackboard in one lecture room that has been unusable for nearly three years, and an unbearably hot, windowless, 90-seat lecture room in Cary Hall that, after pleas from faculty, finally had air conditioning installed that prevented students from hearing lectures because of its incessant noise.

Cedric Smith, professor of pharmacology and toxicology, added that the number of students crammed into the lecture room in Cary created an "intolerable," "insufferable," and "grossly inappropriate" exam situation with "students sitting in each other's laps."

Sean Sullivan, vice provost for academic information and planning, informed faculty members that many of their quality concerns are being addressed as part of a recent $330,000 proposal for centrally scheduled classroom upgrades.

In response to a claim that students often are crammed into small classrooms creating an "unsanitary" and "dangerous" environment, Sullivan said stated classroom capacity is based on actual capacity in accordance with official regulations. But what actually happens may be something different, he said, which, in that case, is a situation that should be looked at carefully.

Students and faculty members asked why final-exam schedules couldn't be posted before the start of classes. Goodman said that would be impossible because of the need to eliminate conflicts for students based on data compiled after the drop/add period, compounded by a particularly severe shortage of large classrooms preferred by faculty for giving exams.

Senators also noted that due to the tight space in some lecture rooms, faculty members often must schedule exams during the semester at odd hours so they can administer the exam in a larger room to prevent cheating, a solution that creates conflicts for students with their other classes.

Samuel Shack, professor of mathematics, wondered if some sort of "tie-breaking rule" could be enforced when students have final-exam conflicts since, he said, students usually claim that all their other professors are "intransigent" when it comes to giving an early exam or a make-up, putting added stress on students during finals.

President William R. Greiner, recognizing that "the instructional environment is important," suggested that classroom problems be taken to Michael Dupre, associate vice president of university facilities and chair of the Environmental Task Force, who could assign some of his key staff members to work with the concerned UB community members to address these issues. Greiner also noted that there had to be one key person assigned within each of the major schools to be responsible for taking care of such problems, since some of these things "can't be solved by a committee."

In other business, Claude E. Welch, Jr., SUNY Distinguished Service Professor in the Department of Political Science and chair of the senate's Academic Planning Committee, presented recommendations to the FSEC on the proposed merger of the Department of Biochemical Pharmacology in the School of Pharmacy into the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Welch reported that upon the committee's review of the situation, it had "no objection to the merger," but noted that "the consultation took place under budget presumptions that may no longer apply."

Smith confirmed and emphasized that the conditions under which the committee recommended approval no longer apply and added that the faculty of the departments involved in the merger have not been informed fully about curriculum changes related to the situation. In addition, Smith said, certain key individuals were not consulted in the process, such as the dean of the medical school and the chair of pharmacology and toxicology.

Shack said he was not satisfied that the relevant parties had been "realistically consulted" and therefore would not endorse the committee's recommendation. The merger issue was referred back to the Academic Planning Committee for further review.

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