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Science Teaching and Student Services Building

Recently Cited as Evidence of Commitment to Undergraduates Education

For the background story on this good example of the administration's continuing tactics in blowing off the opinions of faculty on matters related to classrooms and teaching, please see an earlier rant on my main site:

Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Replace Science Classroom Building?
We've Been Talking About This for Thirty Years, Could We Please Do Something?
(With a Side Rant on Teaching Methods...)

On the one hand it is good that this situation is finally going to be taken care of. On the other hand I fear that the people making decisions do not know what they are doing. I certainly hope that they consult with the folks in chemistry such as Wayne Gladfelter - to make sure that a new science classroom building is done right. A new building done badly will be even worse than the current eyesore.
Remember when the geniuses tore down the poor old decrepit - on campus - Memorial Stadium and replaced it with something they now admit was even worse...the downtown Metrodome? And now we're going to replace the downtown Metrodome with? Twin City Federal Stadium (almost named T. Denny Sanford Stadium). Which of course will be right back on campus near... the old Memorial Stadium location.

Which goes to show that if you wait long enough as a U of M administrator, people will eventually forget your past sins and you can feel free to re-write history. (I was a very strong supporter of the new Science Classrom Building. There is no conflict between teaching and research. I am for stature rather than ratings. I strongly support General College. I strongly support a higher minority enrollment. General College must go. I am against re-engineering. I am for Kotter's Eight-Stage Process of Creating Change. This is a land grant institution.)

-------Side rant-------

Sorry sir, I have some news for you. This comes from the real world and not your uncited "substantial" research. It comes from someone who has actual experience teaching real undergraduates at places ranging from Carleton to BigU over nearly forty years. Although I might be a curmudgeon, I am not a Luddite. I use technology where appropriate and have even won an award from BigU for technology enhanced teaching.

The best way to present introductory courses in general, organic, and biochemistry is the lecture method.

“Opposed to sitting and being fed information� is a little loaded. The reason students go to lectures (good ones anyway) is that the material is presented by an expert in a way that students can learn it. Trot on down the road to St. Olaf or Carleton or across the river to St. Thomas or down 494 to Normandale. Take Ochem with Chuck Carlin or Gary Spessard or Dr. OJ or Chuck Ojala to name just a few of the outstanding chemistry lecturers at these fine institutions.

Guess what - it is the people stupid! And good teachers will make appropriate use of technology using their best judgment.

Could we please look at the RESULTS of the teaching method and the satisfaction/dissatisfaction of students, rather than making loaded and unsupported statements about how people “learn better, faster, and retain more when they learn in interactive settings.� (They "leap tall buildings at a single bound"?) I call BS.

The chemistry department at Minnesota is one of the best teaching departments at the University. Look at the number of faculty members in chemistry who have won teaching awards. AND the interesting thing is that many of the chemistry department’s world class scientists are also world class teachers. Bill Tolman, Larry Que, and Chris Cramer come immediately to mind. There are many more. Look at the comments on Rate My Professors about chemistry faculty members. Chemistry undergrads who work in my lab actually know some chemistry and guess where they learned it?


From the minutes - Faculty Consultative Committee, June 19,

Professor Balas then brought up once again the STSS facility and reported that he had spoken with the Provost about the discussions he (Professor Balas) has had with faculty about the design of the building (such as providing no rear doors in the classrooms, which would mean that students coming late or leaving early would be unable to do so without disturbing the entire class, and providing halls that are too narrow). The Committee will need to follow the progress on this building for the next nine months or there will be trouble with it.

Committee members expressed a number of views about the proposed facility, including disappointment and frustration that the process is still problematic and the issues unresolved.

Professor Sampson said that the argument for the building was that it will provide cutting-edge science classrooms, not that it would be a student services building. The University does not want to end up with a dysfunctional building. It may be getting a cutting-edge-designed building that is not functional, like the Guthrie, which also has problems with traffic flow as people enter and leave, Professor Kahn commented.

The architects have been given their orders and cannot change the design, Professor Balas said; if the building is constructed as designed, it will be a disaster. These are not pedagogy questions, Professor Kahn observed about the points that had been raised; it is about hallways, exits, and the like.

Professor Balas said he would meet with Mr. Miller in the Office of Planning and keep the Committee apprised of events. It may be that Mr. Miller should be invited to join the Committee monthly during the next year to keep it up to date. Professor Martin echoed Professor Sampson: it is STSS, with the ST first; if they can't get the Science Teaching part right, what's the purpose of the building?

But of course what do the faculty know about a classroom building? Who cares about their opinions? OurLeaders know best.

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