The University Board of Regents approved a plan for the construction of a new Business School building on the corner of Tappan and Monroe streets on Friday. The 270,000 square foot building will replace three other Business School buildings, Assembly Hall, the William A. Paton Accounting Center and William Davidson Hall, which are scheduled for demolition in May.
The project is expected to cost $145 million; $75 million will come from last year’s $100 million donation from alum Stephen Ross. The new building will house faculty offices, conference rooms, a large indoor commons, 12 new high-tech classrooms and several smaller meeting rooms.
Business School Dean Robert Dolan said the new classrooms and group meeting rooms will facilitate a community learning environment that will elevate the University’s business school above other business schools nationwide. He said the current facilities do not accommodate classes that emphasize participation. He explained that the new auditorium-style, U-shaped rooms would allow the students to see both professor and one another more clearly.
“(The classrooms we have now are) long and narrow – which is great for the kind of learning that took place 25 years ago,” Dolan said.
Dolan added that new group study rooms will likely be equipped with video conferencing and multimedia access for laptops to allow students to hold meetings with businesses across the world. Currently the school has 13 rooms that students can sign out for group study.
Some Business School students and faculty have questioned whether the new building is really necessary. One Business School professor, who requested to remain anonymous because of the nature of his comments, expressed concern that the University would be tearing down two relatively new buildings; The University built Assembly Hall in 1972 and the Paton Accounting Center in 1976 . He added that although classrooms in Davidson Hall, built in 1948, were substandard, most teaching is done in other classrooms that are already semi-circular.
Associate professor of Finance Lu Zheng said she was satisfied with the classrooms she has been teaching in.
“I think (the rooms we use) vary a lot, but I think (they) were functioning,” Zheng said.
But Associate Dean of the Business School, Graham Mercer, said that the new classrooms were essential to the kind of interactive environment the school wants to provide. He said that after a long period of consideration, Business School administrators had come to the conclusion that, not only were different classrooms necessary, but simply renovating old buildings was out of the question.
“(We had) a couple of little a-ha moments when we realized we couldn’t accommodate the classroom sizes we needed without building some sort of new building,” Mercer said.
During the construction period, classes will be held in underutilized space within Davidson Hall, the Executive Education Building, and classrooms normally used by LSA students – all of which would be technologically updated to accommodate business school class requirements.
Faculty offices will be temporarily moved to the either Wyley Hall or the Executive Education Residence building, which usually houses visiting students and professors, Dolan said that the Business School has already made arrangements with nearby hotels for these students and professors.
The remaining $70 million in construction costs will be partially paid with a $30 million long-term loan; the other $40 million will come from alumni donations, none of which has yet been raised.
The new building will significantly add to the amount of space in business school buildings, giving the school the flexibility to hire 10 percent more faculty members. Dolan said that the school will also have the option to create new degree programs, and possibly enroll more students.
An important new part of the building will be the “winter quad,” a place associate dean Mercer described as the “heart of and soul” of the new Business School campus. Currently, the school has an outdoor courtyard that students can socialize and study in. But Dolan said that in the winter months the area is largely abandoned.
“We have a great courtyard, but the problem with that is it’s really great in July and August when hardly anybody’s here,” Dolan said.
The new commons will be a three story high atrium capable of seating 500 people, the design is likely to include a cafe or restaurant. Dolan said he hopes that it will bring a sense of unity to the campus.
“If I said to you now, meet me at the Business School, I would have no idea what you meant,” Dolan said. He said he hopes this new room will become the standard meeting place for students and faculty, contributing to a sense of community on campus.
Anuj Kapoor, a junior in the Business School’s BBA program, said that he was satisfied with the current business school campus. He said that he wasn’t convinced that the business school needed the renovations.
He added if the money went to other schools at the University, it could be used in projects that really need it, such as residence halls that are falling apart.
“Do we really need to make the business school better? Not really. – It might give us a jump from number three to number two (in the ratings), but I doubt if it’s going to make that much of a difference in education.”
The anonymous business school professor expressed a similar concern that the school’s preoccupation with ratings may not benefit it.
“Maybe we’d all be better off if they stopped playing the rankings game,” he said.