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September 26, 2013

Committee’s suggestions for improving classrooms not addressed

By Jordan Gonzalez

The Committee on Academic Space (for the faculty senate) has been meeting recently to discuss concerns that were brought up in their May 2013 report. Many of these concerns have been repeatedly identified since 2006, but haven’t been addressed, according to Dr. Judith Ausherman, associate professor in the Department of Health and Human Performance and chairperson of the committee.

The main concerns the committee found were diminishing functional teaching space, outdated technology which caused delays in teaching time, and that the “registrar does not understand the unique needs of instructors prior to making room assignments,” according to the report.

In the past, the committee hasn’t met very often, she said, but more problematic is the lack of action after a problem was recognized – something she wants to change.

“We want to make suggestions, not just identify problems,” Ausherman said. “Because anybody can come up with problems, but the way we move things forward is by finding solutions, not just complaining.”

Like all committees in faculty senate, the Committee on Academic Space (CAS) is a recommending committee. Their charge is to “survey, prioritize needs and justify funding for improvements to general classrooms.” After they present their recommendations to the faculty senate, the full senate votes on them, and then it’s up to the Board of Trustees to decide.

One improvement the committee wants is to change the process for reporting damaged and broken equipment on campus, such as tables and chairs. Currently, property management often has custodians identifying and reporting broken equipment on campus, according to the report, which was what Joseph Han, assistant vice president of facilities and safety, had said his unit wanted. If there is a broken chair or table, a custodian will notice it when they are cleaning the room. Ausherman said she and the committee think this is the wrong way to go about the process.

Han was contacted multiple times but did not offer a response.
The overlying issue is a lack of a clearly defined process that is known to all faculty, she said. She and the committee recommended in their report that there be an online work-order request to report broken equipment, chairs or technology.
“What I see sometimes is an organization that is dysfunctional,” Ausherman said. “Why is it that custodians make recommendations about academic space?”

She said she isn’t demeaning the role of a custodian, but to speed up the process, the responsibility of reporting damaged and broken good should be the faculties, since a faculty member knows their classroom’s need.

Such a mechanism would address repeated problems, Ausherman said.

One of her classrooms, which she applauds for its room and overall modern feel, doesn’t have movable desks to accommodate group projects. Another example was a computer lab in Julka Hall that has TVs, used to project slide presentations, placed along the side walls instead of in the front or back, which makes teaching awkward since the students are only looking at the TVs instead of the teacher.

For many professors, their room isn’t granted a projector, so they have to bring it down in a cart every time before class, often wasting 10-15 minutes each class.

Such scenarios play out in many classes in Julka Hall and Main Classroom, she said.

Dr. Ken Sparks, associate professor of Health and Human services, enjoys the Exercise and Physiology Lab in Julka Hall. It’s airy and full of modern, high-tech gadgets, comfortable chairs and spacious tables. Bright posters and dozens of models fill every nook and cranny in the room.

The classroom, however, isn’t as cooperative.

“Our classroom is too small for all of our students,” Sparks said. “It doesn’t accommodate [the students]. It’ll only seat 30 people and they are crowded on top of each other.”

Aside from space issues, the room’s Wi-Fi is spotty and slow, and next door is a weight gym for school athletes, where those working out play loud music that seeps through the classroom’s walls. It’s the only classroom available for the Exercise and Physiology class, Sparks said.

In contrast, Ausherman showed a “primo” example of a classroom in the Science Education Program is located. Aside from there being plenty of space for students and equipment, the classroom is designed to fit the context of the classroom, she said. Sinks, counters, computers and projectors are not only available, but all properly laid out in the room. The room also doubles as the classroom for Science Education courses.

“You don’t have to worry about setting up equipment,” Ausherman said.

The process for addressing concerns about classrooms and equipment varies depending on the department and the context of the situation. In the case of the Art Department and Theater and Dance Department, it would start with a request to the Dean, where it would then go up the chain of command, said Dr. Michael Mauldin, associate professor and chair of the Department of Theater and Dance.

When the department’s moved to the Middough building and Allen Theater, however, both departments and the campus architects worked as a team to divvy up the available space for each department. There was a set limit on the space they were both allowed, and both sides had to plan out their respective needs such as rehearsal rooms, dance studios, and costume shops. Once each department was satisfied, they then presented their needed square footage to the architects.

“It really was then mainly up to the architects to take all of the information that we had given them and sort of make a puzzle out of it,” Mauldin said.

The Middough Building still has some work to be done, Mauldin said. Cleveland State ran out of money before it could be finished, and there is a dance floor that needs to be re-installed due to safety concerns. But for the most part, Mauldin said most of the building is excellent, with plenty of space and modern technology.
This is especially true in the Allen Theater Complex, he said.

“Some of our biggest technology is in the Allen Theater complex, because we consider those [facilities] to be laboratories as well,” Mauldin said. “That’s where we have absolutely state of the art lighting equipment and sound equipment and design equipment that our students learn how to operate.”