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Noyce third

Topics/tags: Grinnell, rambly

Daily readers may recall that in yesterday’s musing, I noted that the CS Commons was one of my favorite places on campus. Today, my muse suggested that I muse about that place. today’s topic, my muse suggested that I look through the list of prospective musings from the bottom (oldest) rather than the top (newest) and this one struck her fancy. It seems that I added a placeholder for the CS commons to my list of prospective musings on 15 October 2016. Rather, in helping me select So, although it would have been a kind of followup, it was also a long-delayed musing. However, my musing about the CS Commons is going to be delayed yet another day. Once I sat down to write about the Commons, my muse insisted that I first give some background on Noyce third. Once I passed five-hundred words of background, most of which were in the endnotes, we agreed that I was better off focusing on Noyce third, rather than the CS Commons. Maybe I’ll write about that particular space tomorrow.

About fifteen years ago, I served as the CS representative [1] for the planning and design of Phase II of the Noyce Science Center reconstruction [2,4]. In many ways, CS was very fortunate. The College had originally planned only one phase for the Noyce reconstruction. However, the need to fund-raise for the Bucksbuam reconstruction [5] meant that the College decided to break Noyce into two phases. If they’d only done one, they would not have considered CS; it was a small major at that point. In contrast, Phase II planning happened at our previous high point.

We didn’t do everything right in the Phase II planning for CS and we also had a lot of our plans changed [6]. But we got many important and useful spaces: research labs for faculty [9], a bit of room for additional faculty and staff [10], study spaces [11], storage spaces [12], a server room and a printer room [14], an open laboratory [15], a CS Commons for students to work and for faculty and students to socialize, museum space [16], a learning center, and more. In effect, they accepted that CS is more like the other sciences than it is like Mathematics and provided us with space similar to the other sciences.

While people, rather than spaces, are the heart of the department, it strikes me that we built spaces that support people well. I hear from our students that we have a strong community in the department. Our faculty and students help build that community, but I also hear that the spaces work well to support that community. There are places to go when you want to be social. There are places to go when you mostly want to work quietly. There are places in which you can work and ask others for help, both informal and formal.

In general, we designed the spaces well. The CS commons is welcoming. The CS learning center has worked relatively well as a quiet place. And we designed the classrooms relatively well; not only do they support our style of teaching, which continues to emphasize active learning, they also seem to be a place in which students like to work in the evening.

That’s not to say that it’s perfect. I think we’ve learned a lot in the decade-plus we’ve spent on Noyce third. If I were to redesign space for CS had more resources, there are certainly many things I’d change. Our new faculty members have very different perspectives on what a research lab should look like; that’s a relatively easy change; we’ve been updating labs as we go. We need more spaces for students to work on small group projects. That’s a hard change; it requires more space. For now, some faculty let students use their research labs [17]. We had three faculty members and one combined faculty/staff position when we planned Noyce 3rd. We now have six faculty members and two staff members [18] and are about to add our seventh faculty member. We need more labs and offices. That’s also a very hard change. ITS and FM did not plan the networking drops well and they are starting to impinge upon faculty space. I’m told that moving the networking drops is an expensive change. We built multi-stall bathrooms. We should have single-stall bathrooms so that the city will allow us to make them gender inclusive. I’m not how hard that change is; I’m hopeful that that’s one change the College will find a way to make. And then there are the host of small things: the furnishings and technology, the color of the rooms and hallway, the number of benches, and so on and so forth. Fortunately, I won’t be around when they design the next CS space, or at least I don’t think I will.

For now, we have what we designed a bit more than a decade a go. And, even though it’s a bit more cramped than it used to be, it remains a really nice space. I’m glad to be in it. Perhaps it’s not surprising that when I’m asked where I like to hang out on campus, Noyce 3rd is the first thing that comes to mind.

[1] I was going to say CS Department Representative. However, we were not yet a department.

[2] I’m pretty sure that it was not the Noyce Science Center at the time that Phase I planning started. The Noyce donation may have led to the naming. It was most likely still the Bowen Hall of Science. I’m a bit bothered that Bowen’s name has eseentially disappeared from College maps [3].

[3] Of course, I’ve seen at least one College map that doesn’t list Carnegie either, and that’s before the construction of the HSSC. So maybe names just disappear from maps.

[4] When I say Noyce Reconstruction, I mean the latest in a series of reconstructions and extensions of the Science Building. I’m not sure how many there have been, but it’s a lot. There’s a wing built in the 1980’s that houses Psychology and Math/Stats. There’s a wing that was built in the 1950’s that got torn down for Phase II. And there are at least one or two other parts that I know got added before Phase I.

[5] This was back in the time when Trustees believed that you should raise funds before you commit to building something new.

[6] I’m unlikely to remember everything, but I can recall a few changes or problems. Let’s see … (a) After teaching in a lab that had no window, we insisted on windows in our labs. They put a frosted window in our primary teaching lab. It turns out that that’s because they put giant air handlers outside the window. But it’s still better to have a clear window. (b) After watching the College buy particle board shelving for Math offices and then having to retrofit them once they collapsed under the weight of a typical faculty library, we specified wooden shelving. They gave us particle board and promised us it was just as good. When Henry Walker’s shelves fell off the wall, they admitted that the new particle board shelves would also need reinforcement. (c) There was supposed to be a second elevator to the third floor. That got cut in cost-cutting. (d) There were supposed to be more display cases for the CS museum. Those also got cut. Our classrooms were supposed to have vertically sliding whiteboards. It turned out that city regulations required us to cut about ten feet off of the height of Noyce, so we got horizontally sliding whiteboards. (e) Our study areas were supposed to be open to the corridor. The interpretation of fire codes at the time suggested that we needed fire doors. That makes some sense; the study areas look out on the library. But I’ve heard that the laws have changed. (f) They didn’t put hold-opens on the classrooms or research labs. Fortunately, we have not been fined for people propping the classrooms open. (g) We had planned a glass wall between the CS commons and the corridor to allow light into the corridor. That also got cut for fire laws. (h) In early plans, the CS commons was much bigger and was being considered as both the CS commons and a general reception area for the Science building. (i) Our designers didn’t consider it necessary to include light switches in the CS commons and FM didn’t tell us [7]. (j) Instead of the wood-colored shelving we expected, we got an institutional dark grey. (k) We did not get the window treatments that the first designer described to us, treatments that are similar to those in the JRC. (l) They installed shelving in the bathroom that was too narrow to hold a notebook. I complained enough about that issue that they eventually fixed it [8].

Okay, perhaps I remember more than I thought. Amazingly, there are a bunch of other issues related to Noyce third that are somewhere in my head and that I haven’t listed. I figured that was enough.

[7] Perhaps the CS faculty could have noticed that there were not light switches. But we are not trained in reading blueprints. And, well, it’s a reasonable assumption that rooms have light switches. I’ve repeatedly been told that it’s much too expensive to retrofit light switches.

[8] Okay, that’s not really an accurate statement. As soon as I pointed out the issue to Dean Sortor, she had it fixed quickly. It just bothers me that I had to point it out. The bathroom shelves represent one of the reasons I complain; it’s clear that things don’t get fixed on campus unless you tell people about problems.

[9] I had been promised a research lab as part of my initial contract with Grinnell. The problem is that no one bothered to identify the space for my research lab. Until we moved to Noyce third, my academic-year research lab was a corner of a classroom. Things are much better now.

[10] We planned for some expansion. With our newest postion, we have exceeded that planning. Figuring out how we’ll handle another faculty member will be an interesting challenge. I have indicated that I am willing to move elsewhere in Noyce so that we have room for the new faculty member. I’m pretty sure at least one other senior colleague would do the same.

[11] We had two. We’ve converted one to a faculty lab. We will maintain the other as a study space. But we may end up adding display cabinets for the CS museum, which has grown in leaps and bounds.

[12] We had to convert one of the storage spaces to an office for our learning coordinator. If I recally correctly, that’s because we had originally planned for a space for the CS learning coordinator next to the CS learning center and that got kiboshed as things were being cut from the building.

[14] When we converted our storage space to an office for our learning coordinator, the printer room became a storage space. It’s smaller than the original storage space, which meant that we had to get rid of some stuff and that I could no longer use that space as my own spare storage.

[15] Unfortunately, as the number of classes has increased, we’ve had to start teaching in the open lab.

[16] Or at least display cabinets.

[17] One of the reasons to clean up my lab is to give more students an opportunity for a quiet work place.

[18] Plus a Linux SysAdmin who is no longer housed on Noyce 3rd.

Version 1.0 of 2018-06-11.