Within the next five to six weeks, UC Berkeley’s English department and several academic groups displaced by the renewal of Wheeler Hall will undergo the long process of moving to temporary offices and classrooms around campus.
The focus of the project is mostly on the building infrastructure, according to campus Real Estate Division spokesperson Christine Shaff. The renovations will also aim to improve the environmental impact of the building by making its bathroom fixtures and lighting more efficient.
The building will not look vastly different but will include changes such as a new elevator, upgrades to safety systems, improved air circulation and new lobby flooring, Shaff said, adding that some of the window frames will be upgraded as well.
Funding for the renewal project comes from the state, and the rest is allocated from the campus’s maintenance funds, Shaff said.
Once everyone has moved out, the building will close, according to Shaff. Construction is scheduled to continue through the next academic year, and offices will begin moving back in summer 2017. In the meantime, most of the offices are being relocated to the Hearst Field Annex or to Hearst Gym.
While some professors believe the move comes at an inconvenient time — coinciding with end-of-semester activities such as grading exams and papers — any other time would be inconvenient as well and the changes are necessary, said Ian Duncan, a campus English professor with an office in Wheeler Hall.
“It’s a major upheaval for us because we all have to move out, and they’re putting us into temporary offices,” Duncan said. “But this is something that we’ve been asking for.”
According to Duncan, the building has been dilapidated for a while, with leaking doors and windows, often soaking people when it rains.
Next year, Duncan will be teaching in Dwinelle Hall, another humanities building. Because Dwinelle Hall is not big enough to absorb all of the classes usually held in Wheeler, however, many classes will be dispersed across campus.
Uzma Amin, a Public Health 116 co-coordinator for the spring 2016 semester, said the renewal will affect enrollment in the class. In her memory, the typically full class has always been held in Wheeler auditorium because it can accommodate the largest class sizes on campus. Instead, the course will be held in the Pauley Ballroom next semester.
For next year’s president of the English Undergraduate Association and intended English major Barbara Montano, the loss of a center for the English department community will be the biggest change during the renewal.
“This building is the interspace of our community in many ways,” Montano said. “It’ll be harder to create a community and meet people in passing, because we won’t have that community space next year.”
Seniors graduating next year will find it difficult not having that community space and traditional English department building on campus, Montano said. She added, however, that the benefits of the renewal will ultimately outweigh the difficulties.
“As long as they keep the integrity of the building and maintain all the details that we love so much and the style of it … it’s worth it,” Montano said.