Faculty Concerns Over Small Offices in OSH Replacement Building

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Orson Spencer Hall at the U in Salt Lake City, Utah, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015.

Good working conditions mean happy faculty, and happy faculty usually means happy students. At least that’s the argument professors like Claudio Holzner are putting forward in response to initial renovation design ideas for OSH.

With preliminary designs presented by MHTN architects, faculty in the departments that are planned to be placed in the new OSH have shared concerns. Specifically, issues have been raised about the proposed office sizes.

As development continues, the planning committee has held meetings where faculty, staff and students could express concerns. Mark Button, political science department chair, said feedback from these meetings was submitted to MHTN architects and the U steering committee in charge.

The architects involved with the project provided a 500-page document to relevant U committees and several faculty members. Among other things, this document showed a proposed 96 square feet office.

Holzner, a political science professor, said he thinks the new OSH “will be a cool building,” but feels this office size is way too small, and will be detrimental to faculty productivity, moral and might impact student interaction with professors.

“One of the most important aspects of the student experience is the classes they take and the faculty they take it from,” Holzner said. He emphasized the significant amount of time faculty such as himself spend in their offices.

While the main feature of the design is “collaborative space” — open lounge-type areas where students, faculty and staff can interact — Holzner said this concept might be overemphasized. He said if there was a better balance between open space and private faculty offices, he and his colleagues could better assist students.

“I can’t have office hours in collaborative space,” said Holzner. “With students I often need to discuss important, sensitive topics in a private space.”

The Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) standard for faculty offices at institutions is 130 square feet. A Higher Education Space Standards Study done by the USHE recommended 140 to 195 assigned square feet of space for a faculty member.

“If those are the standards, why is the design for offices that are 30 percent smaller?” Holzner said.

Matt Yurick, director of the office of space management and planning, and member of the OSH replacement steering committee, said faculty offices in the Carolyn Tanner Irish Humanities Building are an average of 139 net assignable square feet. Offices in the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Arts and Education Complex average 114 net square feet.

Some faculty have also expressed concern over the phrase “daylight access where feasible,” which was used in the program document’s description of the offices. It seemed to suggest not all space would have natural lighting.

Brian Hebdon, architect with MHTN, said this is a misinterpretation of the fact that windows have not yet been drawn into plans. Hebdon confirmed all offices will have natural lighting.

“Build an office without natural lighting? It’s just not something we would do,” Hebdon said.

Decision-making individuals on the steering committee, as well as the architects, were not immediately available for comment on the proposed size of faculty offices.

n.venugopal@dailyutahchronicle.com
@NikiVenugopal

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