According to Director of Facilities Services Scott Maust the first phase of renovations will occur in only the A-Core of SMC, and is set to begin the Monday after Thanksgiving with the demolition of what is currently in place. The major renovations will include the first and second floor of the A-Core as well as the upper floor of the SMC library. Maust estimates that the construction will span from Winter Term 2019 until Fall 2019, to be completed before the start of the 2020 Winter Term.
The first stage of demolition, an asbestos abatement will begin in the last week of October. The major demolitions taking place over winter break will include knocking down and opening up walls as well as building temporary walkways for students and faculty.
“We’re going to set this up and have passageways so that everybody could still go through from wing to wing, so they can still maintain pedestrian traffic,” he said.
He assured that students would still be able to walk from wing to wing, and that the elevator will still be completely functional and safe to use.
The renovation also means that many of the classes that are usually held in SMC have been located to other areas in SMC or other buildings, such as Old Main and George Davis Hall.
Among the relocated is Professor of Mathematics Kevin Hastings, who was surprised that Assistant to the Registrar Karen Benedict was able to fit all of the classes into other buildings on campus. He isn’t sure how easy it will be to do so in the future terms.
“I worry whether Karen Benedict and the registrar’s office who assigned us rooms is going to be able to successfully do this for all of the construction period,” he said. “But she managed to get it done this term.”
Hastings, who teaches a Financial Mathematics course in GDH this term, has experienced little inconvenience due to his having to leave SMC to teach elsewhere. He is thankful that, as a mathematics professor, his work is easily adaptable to spaces outside of SMC. He has enjoyed the simple pleasure of the short stroll from SMC to GDH as well as seeing some new and some familiar faces in GDH.
“I ran into Joel Estes from Educational Studies and talked over an issue with him, and there’s something we want to raise in the department,” he said. “That conversation may never have happened if I was just over here in the science and math center.”
While Hastings hasn’t had difficulties himself, he mentioned a colleague with a physical impairment who is having difficulties with the walk from SMC to other buildings. However, he noted that faculty can still request classrooms in other wings of SMC. He is certain that he and his coworkers will collectively request to let those with physical limitations remain in SMC. Besides the walk for some faculty, Hastings wonders if the noise and debris from construction will interfere with the students’ academics. More than that, he is concerned about the future renovations and how they will affect students in the biology and chemistry departments.
“For us in math it doesn’t matter so much… we need computers but that’s about it,” he said. “If they lose their labs I don’t exactly know what they’re going to do.”
Maust recognizes these concerns as valid and is anticipating some minor inconveniences during the renovation process.
“It’s really hard to minimize disruption whether it’s in biology, chemistry. So it’s going to take some real planning,” Hastings said. “You know, how do you vacate the biology wing and still be able to perform all of the experiments?”
Maust feels that the nuisances caused by construction will be well worth the wait and that the new features will facilitate a more academic environment. He mentioned the removal of the lecture halls as one of the key changes to be made.
“I’ve always heard that they don’t like using the pits — the big lecture halls — because it’s like an echochamber,” he said. “Everybody’s up high, the professor is down low. There’ll be more interaction, more conducive to their teaching environment.”
Other features of the new SMC include a larger, flat room on the upper floor with a descending glass door to split the room into two smaller rooms if needed. With the removal of lecture halls, Maust says that the space will be replaced with an atrium as well as the new SMC library, which will be in a more central location than it is now.
The demolition of the SMC library spurs the need to find a space in Seymour Library for the current materials. For Director of the Library System Jeff Douglas the renovation will require him to speed up a project he already had set in place — the condensing of the Seymour and SMC library collections.
With the plan in place for several years, Douglas had begun slowly narrowing down the collection, realizing that electronic modes of research were creating less of a need for some print materials.
Douglas said that, so far, at least 8,000 volumes have been withdrawn from Seymour Library in order to make room for materials from SMC Library he felt were more important to the Knox curriculum. He doesn’t see the condensing of materials as a detriment to Knox’s ability to provide reference materials for students.
“I do not think that the quality of our collection is compromised by what is no longer here, that these were books that are simply no longer relevant to our curriculum — that were outdated — and that for whatever reason have never found an audience here,” he said.
He mentioned the mental obstacle that came with selling or discarding books that seemed untouched, but ultimately prioritized the usefulness to students over the condition of the books.
“It’s hard for me to argue that we want to devote collection space — real estate in this library — to maintaining a lot of books that nobody is looking at,” Douglas said.
Both Hastings and Douglas feel that, despite some of the inconveniences of renovations, the new SMC will provide a better experience for students and faculty. While Douglas noted that the new location of the SMC library will be more central and accessible to students on the first floor, Hastings is looking forward to a renewed enthusiasm that he expects will come with new building features.