Classroom Improvement Committee Seeks to Better Learning Spaces

%28Photo+Courtesy+of+the+Office+of+Space+Planning+%26amp%3B+Management%29

(Photo Courtesy of the Office of Space Planning & Management)

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(Photo Courtesy of the Office of Space Planning & Management)
(Photo Courtesy of the Office of Space Planning & Management)

New desks, renovated classrooms and better bathrooms for students — these are some of the changes the Classroom Improvement Committee are bringing to campus.

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The committee works to improve classrooms designated as “general assignment” — rooms overseen by the Registrar’s Office rather than by individual departments. Evelyn Garlington, associate director of the U’s Space Planning and Management and director of the committee, said they bring “new life, new light” to the classrooms the group renovates.

Garlington said there was little dedication to repairing and maintaining general assignment classrooms prior to 2004. The committee originally handled small projects, such as buying new classroom furniture. Now, in addition to smaller projects, they also work on larger and more expensive projects, such as remodeling bathrooms. One of their most recent projects, which began in 2009, was to improve student labs in the Department of Chemistry.

According to an August 2014 executive summary, the senior vice president of academic affairs at the U has designated around $9.8 million to the committee’s projects since 2004. Garlington said there are many different factors that go into choosing what happens to each room and how the money is spent.

One of these factors is efficiency, which includes how well a classroom runs given the number of students that can fit in it comfortably. Garlington said there needs to be a certain amount of square footage per student, which is why they tend to buy smaller desks.

Elizabeth Johnson, assistant registrar, said the smaller size allows more students into classrooms during the most requested class times between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m.

“We are here for the students to make the changes to have the best education possible,” Johnson said.

The committee also factors in features for students and staff with disabilities. Students can request to have classes moved to different buildings for better access. The committee purchased new tables for Milton Bennion Hall that adjust in height by pushing a button to allow students with disabilities to work comfortably at desks.

Other improvements in MBH include rolling desks so students can easily form groups.

“It used to be there was more of an expectation that people would come to class and sit in rows,” Garlington said. “Now we’re more mobile.”

The committee also installed tables with electrical outlets so students can charge their devices.

Nick Clayton, a senior in English, said he would have liked to see the committee make more of an impact in older rooms.

“I have never taken a class in a nice, comfortable room,” he said.

Johnson encourages students to submit feedback to the committee and the university by emailing [email protected]

[email protected]

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