VI. The Responsive Campus

6.1 Instructional and Office Space

The current condition and future needs of Amherst’s physical plant are naturally beyond our expertise to judge. We are aware that some necessary renovations to buildings with obsolete systems will create large opportunities. Merrill Science Center and Converse Hall, both in need of renovation, together contain almost a third of our classrooms. The renovation of Merrill offers the opportunity for re-programming its space in light of the momentous changes in science research and teaching that have happened in the four decades since Merrill was built. Because of Barrett Hall’s small size and structural limits, the options for re-programming are constrained, such that media-intensive foreign language pedagogy may need to be accommodated elsewhere. Chapin Hall presents similar, if less severe, challenges.

We urge the administration, especially, in considering further reallocation of space, to use the same careful attention to scholarly and teaching functions that has been evinced in the planning of the new Earth Sciences and Natural History Museum building and the renovation of Fayerweather Hall, and Cooper House. Our conversations with the directors of Frost Library and the Department of Information Technology, for example, suggest that substantial pedagogical gains may be realized by considering renovation of our language learning facilities in tandem with plans to integrate the IT department more centrally into the academic life of the College. Similarly, it may be useful to keep in mind suggestions for carving out classroom space within the library as we contemplate upgrading classrooms and offices. Such ambitious restructuring will require careful thought and visionary planning at a level beyond the expertise of this committee. However we encourage the administration to maintain a holistic view of our academic priorities as it balances the demands for infrastructure against the needs for new personnel. We also commend the College’s commitment to model environmental care in construction projects.