Seven classrooms slated as models for larger upgrade

Michelle Kibiger

Several University classrooms are getting a face-lift this summer thanks to the state Legislature, which approved a $4.2 million funding request this spring to repair classrooms.
Seven classrooms on the Twin Cities campuses will serve as prototypes for classroom renewal, said Harvey Turner, director of planning and programming for Facilities Management.
The University has slated classrooms on the West Bank, East Bank and St.Paul campuses for improvement before the regular school year begins Sept. 26. The rooms range from small seminar and case-study rooms to large auditoriums like Willey Hall rooms 125 and 175.
According to a 119-point checklist used by the University to evaluate classrooms, the rooms need mechanical and electrical work to incorporate the advanced teaching technology recommended in U2000, University President Nils Hasselmo’s plan to prepare the University for the 21st century. This technology includes computers and closed-circuit television.
Other improvements to the classrooms involve more standard elements like updated seating, lighting, acoustics, heating, ventilation, air conditioning and room configurations.
The University is also continuing to gather suggestions from teachers about the characteristics of the best classroom environment, Turner said. A preliminary study was conducted in 1995 to pinpoint goals for improving classrooms, which is called for under U2000.
“It’s the student or faculty perspective that would be necessary to have a high-quality learning environment,” Turner said.
The classrooms currently being renovated will serve as models for at least 50 other classrooms across the Twin Cities campuses and will help administrators develop a long-term plan to improve academic environments, Turner said. He added that this plan would be a way to convince the state Legislature that the University is spending its money wisely.
“It’s an effort to implement state of the art learning equipment, which the Legislature required when they gave us the money,” Turner said.
Initially, the University requested $57 million for emergency repairs and classroom renewal on all four campuses. The Legislature allocated $6.2 million for repairs on all the University campus, including Duluth, Morris and Crookston.
When the University requested the money earlier this year, Rep. Becky Kelso, DFL-Shakopee, said the amount of money the University receives reflects the level of confidence the Legislature has in the institution. Kelso chairs the University of Minnesota Finance Division of the House Education Committee.
U2000 emphasizes enhancing the learning experience through modern classrooms and the latest technology. However, two-thirds of the classrooms on the Twin Cities campus do not meet the University’s basic standards in areas such as heating, ventilation and lighting.
Getting those classrooms up to current standards is a primary goal of U2000, but administrators say they will need $20 million to complete the task.
Classroom deficiencies are only a small part of what Turner called a substantial backlog of University repair projects, which grow by about 10 percent of their total each year.
In an effort to combat similar backlogs, other Big 10 universities have begun charging students a fee that goes directly toward facility improvement. For example, the University of Michigan implemented a student fee about five years ago because the state government could no longer support the school’s repairs.