University Affairs | Dec. 9

Expansion of graduate housing, reformed classroom design process promoted at CPUC meeting: Report on classroom design

The Council of the Princeton University Community meeting held yesterday discussed the future of Graduate School housing and proposed incorporating more student and faculty input into classroom design.

Graduate Student Government president Friederike Funk raised concerns regarding the current shortage of graduate housing in light of the planned demolition of the Butler Apartments and asked during the Q&A session how this tract of land will be used in the future. Graduate students circulated a petition last month protesting the demolition of the Butler Apartments, citing excessive pressures placed on older students whose stipends are ending and Princeton’s limited housing market as major problems.

“Many grad students wonder if Princeton might be willing to increase the number of 70 percent of eligible grad students [for housing],” Funk said.

The University plans on opening its new Lakeside Apartments in 2016, which will replace what University President Christopher Eisgruber ’83 refers to as the “failing tract at Butler,” which he mentioned will likely be transformed into faculty housing in the future.

According to a Dec. 4 Letter to the Editor from Dean of the Graduate School William B. Russel, the Butler Apartments fail to meet federal accessibility standards and require frequent, costly structural repairs.

Eisgruber stressed that providing graduate students housing may not be the best and most cost-efficient way to meet graduate student needs.

“There are also trade-offs in terms of other facilities we might invest in,” Eisgruber stated.

The construction costs of the Lakeside Apartments exceed $115 million, only $55 million of which is supported by the rent stream provided by graduate students. The apartments will accommodate 715 students, according to the University website. Eisgruber said the apartments would provide approximately 75 percent of graduate students with University housing.

Funk challenged the reported percentages of graduate students currently offered University housing, asserting that only 66 percent of graduate students receive it, rather than the 70 percent reported on the University’s website.

During the meeting, the Committee on Classroom Design also announced a set of recommendations for designing University classrooms in the future, citing problems with the current lack of faculty and student input in the process and overly complex audiovisual systems with inconsistent connectivity.

Since the committee’s creation in February, it has held two walking tours and eight meetings, according to committee chair and electrical engineering professor Mung Chiang.

The recommendations emphasized the need to gain feedback from major stakeholders early on in the classroom design process, such as faculty, students, the vice provost’s office, the McGraw Center and others, Chiang said.

Chiang also noted the problems caused by the inaccessible and overly complicated audiovisual systems, proposing a shift from analog to digital and wired to wireless technology to simplify access to basic features in the classroom.

Other suggestions included further experimentation with “flexible, configurable spaces” and planning outside classroom spaces, adjacent corridors to accommodate informal conversations and working groups, Chiang said.

The Committee on Classroom Design’s full report will be available to students on the provost’s website in the next few days, Chiang said.

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