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The Blue & Gray Press | November 22, 2017

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Monroe to Get a Facelift

By Ashley Leake

Students will be taking classes in trailers for two years during the Monroe Hall renovations according to Dean Rosemary Barra, interim vice president for Academic Affairs and dean of the faculty for the College of Arts and Sciences.
The Monroe Hall renovations will begin in the summer of 2009 and cost the school approximately $12 million, according to Executive Vice President Richard Hurley.
Some classes in the Departments of political science and international affairs, sociology and anthropology, geography, history and american studies and economics currently housed in Monroe will be moved temporarily to the bookstore trailer. Other classes in these departments will be spread around campus.
“The bookstore will be moving back into Lee Hall and so we will convert the current bookstore into some classroom space to be used while Monroe Hall is off line, ”Barra said.
Some students are upset that they will be forced to take classes in trailers.
“I thought only public K-12 schools had to worry about taking classes in trailers,” Jessica Pryor, a sophomore biology and sociology major, said. “I feel like I pay a lot of money to go to a nice school and have my classes in historic buildings, not trailers.”
Other students agree with Pryor and are frustrated by the administrations decision.
“I do not mind having my classes in other places to accommodate the renovations, but I do wish the classes could be somewhere other than the trailers,” Julia Robinson, a junior international affairs and political science major, said. “I was under the assumption that the trailers were a short term solution to the Lee Hall renovations.”
Students also expressed concern as to how the bookstore trailer will provide enough soundproof space for learning to be productive. John Wiltenmuth, associate vice president of Facilities Services, says this will not be a problem.
“The interior of the trailer will be reconfigured with new walls to create the classrooms,” Wiltenmuth said. “The walls will have insulation both for energy conservation as well as sound reduction between the rooms.”
Barra says she has not heard any criticism from students about the administration’s decision.
“I have not heard any negative comments from students about having classes in the temporary structures. Unfortunately, we do not have any alternative,” Barra said. “Monroe Hall needs to be vacated in order to do the renovations and without using these temporary facilities we would not be able to accommodate all of the classes that need to be offered.”
Other buildings on campus will also have to be used to house classes displaced by the restorations. Barra states that the portion of Dupont Hall that currently houses the offices of the Bachelor of Liberal Studies Program would be converted into classrooms when the program moves into Lee Hall, but she gave no other specific buildings that would be affected.
Some seminars will also be held in the two large houses recently acquired by the University on the corner of College Avenue and William Street.
There will be some movement of offices from these renovations as well. The departments who currently have their offices in Monroe will be moved all over campus.
The department of economics will be moved to the new house acquired by the University at 1004 College Avenue. The department of history and american studies and the department of political science and international affairs will move their offices to Mercer Hall. The department of sociology and anthropology will move to the second floor of George Washington Hall and the department of geography will move its offices and lab to the current Financial Aid trailer on College Avenue.
Joseph W. Nicholas, associate professor of geography, is more optimistic about the move and potential improvements.
“I feel the renovations are going to be positive; the geography department is getting a pollen analysis lab out of it,” Nicholas said.
However, Ranjit Singh, assistant professor of political science, is not looking forward to teaching classes in the bookstore trailer but is willing to deal with it during the two year renovations.
“Having classes in the bookstore is not ideal, but all of the professors understand that this is a necessary arrangement to have a better space in the future,” Singh said.
The movement of Monroe-based operations around campus is an ongoing process.
“It’s a little bit of a puzzle we are working with, but we’re getting there,” Barra said.
Built in 1911, Monroe Hall is one of the oldest buildings on campus and has gone through many renovations throughout its long history, the most recent of which occurred in 1978.
According to Barra, the current restorations to the building will be replacement and repairs to the mechanical systems as well as reconfiguration of the offices and upgrades to the windows to make them more energy efficient.
Hurley also mentioned repair and replacement of the pillars in the front of Monroe as part of the renovations in the Board of Visitors meeting on Friday, Nov. 14.
Some students and faculty are also wondering what will happen to the murals that are currently in the main lobby of the building.
According to Hurley, the University made the decision to leave the murals where they are and as they are until funds become available to restore them. Hurley says the estimated cost to restore the murals will range from $76,000 to $208,000.
Members of the UMW community are split on the issue of whether to preserve or get rid of this artwork.
“I feel they should be saved because they show the history of the building,” Pryor said.
However, others disagree, saying the murals should go while they are renovating Monroe.
“As an alum I think people remember them better than they actually are. I would prefer to see new murals in their place,” Singh said.
Hurley says the estimated cost to restore the murals will range from $76,000 to $208,000.
The UMW community is split on the issue of whether to preserve or get rid of this artwork.
“I feel they should be saved because they show the history of the building,” Pryor said.