For students' sake, give our lecture halls a facelift

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Photo Credit: Ella Williams | Daily Texan Staff

Stepping into some of UT’s largest lecture halls can often feel like entering a time capsule — and not in a good way. It’s not uncommon to find yourself at a broken desk, or to find a seat completely missing. “So many classrooms feel like they’re straight out of the ‘60s,” government senior David Daniel Treviño. “It’s like they haven’t been renovated or updated since.”

According to assistant registrar Truman Glenn, the growing size of incoming freshman classes has put an increased demand on UT’s largest classrooms. As more Longhorns cycle through massive lecture halls such as Burdine 106 and UTC 2.112, the two largest on campus, — these rooms show their age more than ever. Our learning experience as Longhorns is often defined by what we’re taught in our University’s lecture halls. UT should make sure that they live up to the world-class quality of our education.

The Office of the Registrar refers to rooms such as BUR 106 as “general purpose classrooms” — large lecture halls made available for any department to request. Though the registrar calls these rooms “general purpose,” these halls are often ill-suited for a modern educational experience. Like 62 other GPCs, BUR 106 and UTC 2.112 lack what the University calls “continuous writing surfaces,” or long, shared writing tables with attached seats — a setup that ensures ample space for writing and test-taking. Additionally, over 60 of UT’s nearly 280 GPCs have what the University refers to as “limited media,” which could mean the classroom lacks anything from a projector to a computer.

Our professors feel the frustration of outdated classrooms as well. Chemistry professor Dr. David Laude teaches a course in BUR 106, the largest lecture hall on campus. Though the University has it listed as a room with both dual projectors and a media console, Laude says that rooms such as BUR 106 pose a challenge for faculty “trying to use innovative active learning strategies.” When professors such as Laude cannot adequately teach their curriculum in UT’s largest halls, we risk jeopardizing our education at the hands of decaying classrooms.

Though Glenn notes that GPCs typically only get booked to about 80 percent capacity, Treviño says that a handful of students sit in the aisles in his business laws and ethics 320F class. In my 500-person architecture class, the room’s layout makes the few open seats so inaccessible that at least five people end up sitting on the floor. Ironically, those on the floor likely have a better learning environment than those in chairs — they can actually take notes without elbowing the people next to them.

In the school’s defense, certain dated buildings such as Welch and RLM face renovation to bring their technological capacity into the 21st century. Mega-projects such as the Welch renovation — which has a price tag of $100 million dollars — aren’t always necessary, though. Three lecture halls in Burdine are currently undergoing renovation for comparatively low prices ranging from $900,000 to $970,000. 

Ensuring that all GPCs have basic technology would be a small step in the right direction. Redesigning halls with auditorium-style seating to ensure more space and area to write on is a bigger ask, but would reap sizable rewards. Perhaps if we focused on smaller, cheaper and less flashy projects such as those, we could fix more classrooms in less time. 

Learning at UT shouldn’t be a tale of two classrooms. While our newest classrooms stand on the cutting edge of collegiate learning, our most historic lag behind. Our administration must prioritize the renovation of dated and dysfunctional classrooms to ensure Longhorns can take advantage of their time on the 40 Acres.

Buckner is a Plan II and journalism sophomore from Austin. He is an associate editor.