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June 12, 2024

Faculty, administration compromise on Dell House

By KENSING NG | September 14, 2008

The Dell House has become the new location for a myriad of departments due to the renovation of the iconic building that used to house them, Gilman Hall. The transition however, has faced several difficulties.

One of the biggest concerns of the faculty within the Dell House, located between 28th and 29th Street on North Charles, has been the lack of office space.

"The offices are much smaller than the Gilman offices. Faculty have had to put most of their books and papers in storage, or they have moved them to their homes. The department of history office is woefully cramped," History professor Judith Walkowitz said.

This problem is aggravated by the fact that there are more faculty members than there are offices.

"Three people are sharing an office that is smaller than my Gilman Hall office," History professor Franklin Knight said.

"Shared office space means that individual faculty members have limited access to their offices, and that they essentially have to work at home," Wolkowitz added.

According to faculty living in the Dell House, those who cooperated with the request to share a room with two other faculty members were rewarded with additional research funds or enhanced salaries.

"We [the administration] did feel that it would be appropriate to recognize the additional inconvenience borne by such faculty, although of course it would be inappropriate for me to comment specifically on faculty compensation," said Adam Falk, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

In addition to smaller and fewer offices, the Dell House is also vastly different compared to Gilman because the Dell House was never built for faculty use.

"We are essentially housed in apartment suites," Walkowitz said.

In addition, while Gilman is located at the head of the Keyser (Upper) Quad, the Dell House is located on the edge of campus. This becomes especially problematic when professors need to meet with students.

"Some professors are meeting their students in the library," Knight said. "Others are meeting them in the Greenhouse."

He added, however, that he will continue to meet students in his office, which he currently shares with two other professors.

That the Dell House is inferior to Gilman Hall seems to be undisputed. The administration, however, has defended the reasons for the move.

"We don't pretend that it's an ideal situation. It's an ad hoc, interim situation for two years. We try to make it viable for professors to continue their work but we don't pretend that it's as good an academic setting as our faculty deserve," said Paula Burger, dean of undergraduate education.

Once it was decided that Gilman would be renovated, the need for faculty to move to a different location followed.

"We could have done Gilman wing by wing, floor by floor, but it would haven taken significantly longer and would have been more expensive and would not have resulted in as good a job," Burger said.

Other members of the administration echoed similar sentiments, noting that faculty would have been disrupted by the construction crews had they stayed. "We are digging a huge hole in the basement. It really was not workable to occupy Gilman as we were renovating it," Senior Associate Dean for Finance and Administration Fred Puddester said.

Ultimately, the Dell House was chosen as a space that would allow some degree of collaboration.

"We felt that it was very important, because the move out of Gilman would last two years, to find a location where all the humanities departments could be housed together. We did not want to scatter them in trailers, or ad hoc office space, where the sense of community would be completely disrupted," Falk said.?

When it came time to choose a building, the administration made sure to include faculty opinion. "We coordinated between my office and the department chairs. This was a very collaborative process," Puddester said.

In response to the concerns raised by the faculty, the administration has taken several steps to improve the situation.

"We are providing 24/7 security and we are running a separate shuttle service that connects Dell House to the campus," Puddester noted.

In response to requests for the creation of a humanities lounge on campus, the administration plans to renovate the Hop Stop in Levering into what Burger described as a "lounge slash living room."

"We're upgrading the lighting so people can read a book and study. We're going to put comfortable seating in there for students and professors to meet. I think it's going to be a nice addition."

While this does not address the issue of office space, Wolkowitz noted that it is a very positive development.

"I am very glad to hear they are renovating a space in Levering. I think that will be of great help to the situation," Walkowitz said.

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