Poor room design prompts nickname contest

Erin Ghere

As students file into the room, Robert Roon prepares for another lecture to a group of first-year dentistry students that he cannot see, cannot interact with and often cannot hear.
Roon’s teaching isn’t handicapped by any sort of personal disability but by a certain University facility well known for its poor design: Room 100 in the Mayo Memorial Building.
The room is about 10 chairs wide and 40 to 50 rows deep, an arrangement that makes it very difficult for professors to communicate with students seated more than a few rows from the front.
It is “long, skinny, poorly lighted and inadequately maintained,” said Roon, an associate professor of biochemistry.
To shed light on the situation, Roon began joking about the room each morning at 8 a.m., coming up with a variety of nicknames, including “the bowling alley.”
“(The room) provides some memorable experiences and an ideal target for various forms of humor,” Roon said.
After a few weeks of class, Roon had a new brainchild: a plan to take jokes about the room to a new level. With 85 bright dentistry students in front of him, he decided to hold a contest for the best nickname.

Mayo 100
First-year dentistry student Nicole Giddings — one of two contest winners — said that besides the room being hot and uncomfortable, students in the room can’t see the professor.
And the problems go on.
“With the demolition that is going on nearby,” Roon said, “we have the added elements of vibrations and noise from the wrecking ball and from blasting for the new parking structure.”
To make matters worse, the room was sent into blackness for two days after construction crews severed a power line.
“It’s an awful room,” Giddings said, summing it up.
The dreaded Room 100 is infamous among dentistry and biochemistry students and alumni. Even alumni who graduated more than 10 years ago remember the room, Roon said.
“We try to avoid it,” he added.
About 50 years old, the room was created when Mayo Memorial Building was first erected. Mayo 100 and its partner, Mayo 125, are shaped oddly because the architect did not want one giant lecture hall but needed to match an auditorium’s size and shape.
Although first-year dental student biochemistry lectures are normally given in the Moos Tower, this year about 15 of 80 lectures are being offered in Mayo 100 because of the semester conversion, campus construction and room scheduling problems.
“Needless to say, this is not an ideal environment in which to teach biochemistry,” Roon added.
Until construction of the new Molecular and Cellular Biology Building is completed in winter 2002, however, Roon and other professors will have to put up with lecturing in Mayo 100.

The contest
Students in Roon’s room-nicknaming contest competed for $5 gift certificates to Bruegger’s Bagels.
“And a certificate he said we could frame,” Giddings laughed.
About 100 responses — some students submitted multiple names — were turned in, including “The Gimp Closet,” “The ‘Are We Breathing Asbestos?’ Room” and “Birth Canal of Biochemical Nirvana.”
“They did a pretty good job,” Roon said.
When students voted from among 10 finalists chosen by Roon, Giddings and fellow student Kevin Kopper won. Giddings came up with the name, “The Outhouse — you hate going in there, but you know that you have to,” and Kopper authored, “Descending Colon.”
Kopper said he thought the contest was a great idea.
“It’s just an old lecture hall, and it deserves a funny nickname,” he added.
He said Roon made the 8 a.m. class fun by joking about the room. Kopper said he came up with the name, “Descending Colon,” from the dentistry students’ gross anatomy course.
Giddings said she wasn’t even going to enter the contest until she thought of “The Outhouse” on a whim.
“(The classroom) is way out there,” she said, “away from the normal classroom area.”
Both Kopper and Giddings said they have never had a University classroom as bad as Mayo 100, although Kopper said the old Nicholson Hall Auditorium was pretty bad, too.
“The bottom line is that although we are experiencing some inconvenience at present — and I would like to see Mayo 100 and 125 disappear into the dust — we will soon have some very fine new classrooms,” Roon said. “I want one of them for my classes.”

Erin Ghere covers faculty and welcomes comments at [email protected] She also can be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3217.