Science faculty offer views on Stoffer Hall renovation project

Natasha Sims

Stoffer Hall, built in 1960, received its first renovation six years later. Now, after 40 years, it is getting a much-needed facelift.

Construction should begin this summer and last for two years if construction stays on schedule. The original plan was to complete the building in a year, but classroom conflict and schedule coordination proved to be more complicated than a normal university building renovation. If construction had been completed in a year, the science department would have had to locate and rent facilities off campus suitable for lab environments equipped with safety features, too.

During the first year of construction, the new teaching labs will be added to the north side of the building, facing 17th street. This was decided so students and faculty alike could move into the new side of Stoffer while renovation continues to the existing parts. Even with the new plan, classes are expected to suffer.

“We can’t offer some classes because of space,” said Lee Boyd, biology professor. “We might still need to move some classes to another [campus] building.”

The estimated cost of the building is somewhere between $14-$15 million dollars, says Gordon McQuere, dean of College Arts and Sciences. The addition and renovation of Stoffer is the costliest to date of any Washburn campus facility.

“The number one request from the teachers was that the teaching labs be excellent,” said McQuere.

But, with much of the allotted money paying for the asbestos abatement and updating the heating and cooling system in the existing building, as well as the physical addition of a new structure, it doesn’t leave much for a scientist’s dream lab.

“Everyone just feels a general sense of frustration,” said Tracy Wagner, biology professor. “When funds are short, we have to give up some things that we don’t want to [give up].”

A sentiment that is echoed around the department.

“We wish we had more money to spend,” said Boyd. “We’re long overdue for renovation.”

Basically, Wagner said, as long as scientists have all the tools they need, they don’t care about the exterior details of their working environment.

Disappointed the departments may be in the lack of funds, however, they are excited about the increased space for research and the overall improvement of the labs.

But physical additions to Stoffer are not the only positive aspect of the renovations. In addition to the science departments, physics and astronomy, biology and chemistry, the computer information sciences department will be joining the Stoffer Hall team. At this time they are still holding classes in Bennett Computer Center.

“Any time colleagues can collaborate in close proximity, great ideas pop up,” said Wagner. “These are the kind of ideas that come from talking in the halls, not in a formal meeting.”

According to Boyd, the move will benefit the student research in both the sciences and computer sciences departments because of the increased interaction of the two groups.

“There’s a lot of synergy between the departments,” said Boyd.