UC Berkeley is in the middle of a $1.9 million project to upgrade and modernize 46 outdated classrooms in many buildings around campus.
In response to complaints from campus professors that classrooms lacking appropriate computer setups were a hindrance to student education, the campus Office of the Registrar undertook a project that has thus far upgraded furniture, writing surfaces, technological infrastructure and acoustics in 37 of the campus’s most ill-equipped classrooms. The office will renovate nine more over winter break.
“The campus invested pretty heavily in getting rooms technology-adapted,” said University Registrar Walter Wong, who helped lead the project. “It was obvious that the basic attributes of the classrooms were way behind. The idea is to make every facility on campus better than it is currently to the extent that we can.”
Classrooms were upgraded in 10 buildings on campus, including Evans Hall, Barrows Hall, Latimer Hall and LeConte Hall, among others. In many of the renovated classrooms, work crews installed slip-resistant floormats, added flat-screen monitors, increased disabled accessibility and replaced traditional desks with mobile, ergonomically designed ones, according to Wong. Old furniture is being repurposed, recycled or donated whenever possible.
Michelle Nguyen, a graduate student at the Goldman School of Public Policy and a GSI for an Economics 1 section, said that she was not yet sure if the new chairs in the 7 Evans Hall classroom she teaches in have provided much of benefit.
“So far they have seemed fun and functional, but I can’t speak much yet to how well they actually facilitate group work,” Nguyen said in an email. “They don’t seem to have been a detriment so far.”
The project has drawn some complaint from students who contend that the nearly $2 million could have been better spent.
Bridget Smith, a UC Berkeley sophomore whose Environmental Science 10 discussion section meets in the newly upgraded classroom in Evans Hall, said that while the new chairs she uses save space and make group work easier, the money could have been better used to help reduce the cost of tuition.
According to Wong, campus administrators approved a five-year funding model for the project, which will be funded through the campus’s central budget. Before beginning large-scale upgrades on classrooms across campus this summer, the office ran a pilot renovation program last spring by upgrading certain classrooms in Evans Hall, Wong said.
ASUC Senator Rafi Lurie said that the cost of the upgrades was probably a necessary investment.
“I think it’s very important to uphold the highest academic standards possible,” he said. “I trust the funds were used efficiently and minimal waste was created for this project.”
Contact Jeremy Gordon at [email protected].