Goodbye Greenway: Science building draws mixed reactions

Austin Loukas

Phat Nguyen, News Editor

Senior accounting major Weston McCollum believes Wilkes’ new science building is a “a waste of money.”

“They took away the only appealing part of our campus,” McCollum said referring to Wilkes’ greenway.

However, sophomore pre-med major Adam Bailey is happy to see the entire greenway was not taken up and believes the sciences do need a new building.

Bailey said most of his labs are almost always filled up, and he feels that the Stark Learning Center, which was built in 1956 and houses biology, chemistry and engineering departments, does not match the quality education being offered.

“Stark is starting to get old and shabby,” Bailey said. “I think a state of the art science building is essential.”

Students and faculty hold strong opinions regarding the new science building.

While some strongly support the advancement of the school’s sciences, others see it as a selfish promotion and financial burden.

The $35 million building, which is set to open in the fall of 2013, will undergo 18months of ongoing construction.

That construction, which starts as early as 8 a.m., doesn’t seem to have students and faculty concerned about loud noises as much as costs and the loss of the university’s greenway, which has been fenced off.

One of the science departments allegedly in need of renovations is the Chemistry Department.

Amy Bradley, chemistry chair, often deals with leaky sinks that have been reinforce but still require maintenance and clean up.

“It’s a danger,” Bradley said. “Students can slip and fall.”

With 98 students enrolled in organic chemistry and 135 students in general chemistry, scheduling is also issue.

The department has to offer nearly 10 labs for organic chemistry which is limited to16 students per lab since Occupational Safety and Health Administration mandates space to two students per hood due to space.

Seven labs are open for the general chemistry students, but they are not limited by hood space.

Bradley, one of the two organic chemistry teachers, said there are many fines that the school could face regarding cleanliness if the school does not meet standards set by the OHSA.

OSHA’s mission is to assure safe and healthful laboratory environment by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.

“We’re up to code on everything, but it’ll certainly be easier with a new, clean lab,” Bradley said.

“I think students will benefit, research will benefit and safety will be better.”

Bradley went on to note the importance of air suction for the organic chemistry labs.

“Organic students will all encounter dangerous chemicals and gases which need proper air suction for their safety,” Bradley said.

“While the students will only be in the organic labs for a fall and spring semester, the chemistry faculty and staff will deal with these chemicals as long as they’re at Wilkes.”

Since Bradley has come to Wilkes, the school has installed lab hood monitors that indicate safe levels of air flow in laboratory fume hoods.

The monitors is used to measure and report on exhaust flow in many critical or controlled indoor environments, including pharmaceutical and university laboratories.

Each organic hood has been equipped with an AirGard 405, which each costs $330.

Bradford Kinney, professor of communication studies, believes the liberal arts should not be overlooked.

“I think the sciences are good, but not on the back of the liberal arts,” Kinney said.

“Not that we don’t need a science building, because we really do. I really believe that.”

When Kinney first came to Wilkes, he said he remembered how growing complaints eventually lead to Wilkes buying property, tearing down houses and making the greenway, an open grass and social playground.

“It was so nice to see the kids out there throwing the Frisbee and enjoying their time,” Kinney said. “Now, there is no greenway.”

Kinney is becoming increasingly concerned with what will become of the TV studio.

The science building, which was originally planned to be built near the student union building, now, is being built in between the Stark Learning Center and Conyngham Hall.

With the science building wrapping around Stark, there might be issues with construction and a need to move the state-of-the-art TV studio.

The fenced-off greenway also bothers junior communications studies major Trevor Kurtz more than just physically.

The greenway, he said, was the student’s place to hangout, and he is upset that Wilkes puts priority in the sciences rather than the liberal arts.

“What really bothers me is I love my department,” Kurtz said.

“The fact of the matter is the school cares more about the sciences more than anything else.”

Kurtz believes budget cuts made by Wilkes to fund the science building by all departments are ruining his education as the university is offering fewer upper-level classes each semester.

“We could have more things in the comm department, and we could have more classes, but we’re funneling millions of dollars into a science building that will only benefit a portion of the school,” Kurtz said.

Questions remain on what the school will focus on after construction is completed.

The next Wilkes president, Patrick Leahy, stressed the importance of a liberal arts education in his opening remarks which may offer hope to non-science majors.