Collaboration across campus helped move all of the classes out of McGill Hall after the building was shut down due to unsafe levels of asbestos. The building’s shuttering displaced both students and their professors.
After the Jan. 31 closure of McGill, faculty and administrators scrambled to find new venues to hold courses for the media arts, health and human performance and performing arts programs.
During the transition, professors either canceled classes or held them wherever space was available, either in the UC or empty classrooms around campus.
After two weeks of coordination, media arts professors found office and classroom space in Don Anderson Hall, with the remaining in the Gilkey Building. Classes for transplanted students in Anderson began the following day.
According to Mark Shogren, a professor at UM for 15 years, media arts students lost both space and technology needed for their curriculum. Much of that technology still remains in the building while crews make it safe for reopening.
“That building was a very organic space for us. We had built it around the experiences for students and their needs,” Shogren said.
The equipment still locked in McGill includes cameras, sound recorders, computers and software specialized for filmmaking, animation and 3D modeling, according to Shogren.
Shogren prioritized seniors hoping to graduate in May while putting together a contingency plan. In a meeting that included UM’s provost, the dean of the college of visual performing arts and those tasked with asbestos abatement in McGill, Shogren established an agenda that will save any courses from cancellation, provided the building reopens within a few weeks.
As of Feb. 12, the University set March 1 as a tentative reopening of McGill Hall.
Technology outside of McGill has helped some media arts students avoid some of the dilemmas caused by the closure. Those taking classes in the online media arts program experienced no disruption in their coursework. Other students continued their work on personal computers.
According to Greg Twigg, a UM alumnus and professor of 16 years, some senior projects remain in McGill, stuck in the databanks of the building’s computer lab. Other seniors don’t have access to the same software the lab provided.
“These are pretty much Frankenstein machines,” Twigg said. “Trying to find the space to accommodate that with processing power and graphics has been a major hurdle for us.”
For these students, their projects have been put on hold for the next few weeks. Twigg said some courses may switch to being almost completely online to prevent being canceled if the cleanup extends past March 1.
For Morgan Long, a junior media arts student, Twigg’s animation class is the only one she attends in person. The rest of her coursework is done online.
In two weeks, she and her 19 classmates had two classes canceled. One was held in the Liberal Arts building before finding a free computer lab in Don Anderson Hall. She does most of her work on her own computer, and she said the classroom change didn’t impact her too badly.
Alexis Doutt, a sophomore pre-physical therapy student, is in three Health and Human Performance classes that were moved out of McGill Hall.
Her KIN 330 class was moved to the third floor of the Liberal Arts building, but she said room isn’t big enough for the 25 to 30 students in the class. “People are sitting on the floor or sitting in a chair, writing on their laps,” Doutt said.
One of her other kinesiology classes was moved to a smaller room in the Chemistry building, which she said is a good thing because now, “we are actually forced to participate in that class.”
When her classes were moved, Doutt received emails from the registrar’s office about McGill’s closure and where to go for class.
The Theatre and Dance department had 20 classes in McGill Hall. Some of these classes used specialized drafting tables and rehearsal space. Mike Monsos, director of the department, said some classes were easier to move because they only need a big space to rehearse, but many used very specialized rooms.
One of the classes that required special equipment was a drafting class, which was moved into the Law building. The students were not able to move into another classroom with drafting tables, but the department bought the class “T-squares,” which are drawing tools used for drawing perpendicular lines, to use during class and at home.
Only one theatre faculty member had an office in McGill. Her office space is temporarily in the Law building, and she is holding office hours in the main theatre and dance office in the PARTV Building.
Erin McDaniel, an administrative associate for the Theatre and Dance Department, worked with the Registrar’s office to find new spaces for the classes.
“It was really great. I felt like I had a partner in the department that was working directly with me, and by the end of the day we had a space for all of the classes,” Troy Morgan, the assistant registrar, said about working with McDaniel.
On the morning of Jan. 31, the Provost’s office notified the Registrar, Joseph Hickman, that McGill Hall was shut down, and the Registrar’s office needed to find new spaces for the classes and offices.
Hickman said his team worked on the classes that did not have equipment or specialized needs first. The classes with more complicated needs were dealt with afterward.
The Registrar’s office uses an application called 25Live to keep track of every classroom and lab on campus. This includes which spaces are being used and if they have any specialized technology. Morgan said this application allowed the Registrar’s office to find new classrooms quickly.
Hickman said all departments, professors and students were contacted at the end of the day on Jan. 31 with the new classroom placements. All 58 classes were moved. One class had to change meeting times because finding a classroom with the right technology did not meet the scheduling constraints.
Hickman also worked with professors to help find them new office spaces on campus. He brought faculty with him to tour vacant offices and helped them get settled in their new placements.
“It was a great collaboration across campus. People really volunteered their spaces. It was really nice to see all of campus come together to give up any space they had,” Hickman said.