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Hammer Lab upgrades, but feedback comes first

By Beckett Mufson and Emily O'Brien, Special to The Chronicle

In preparation for the planned renovations in the Stanford S. Hammer Lab, the Computer Center put up posters in the study space across from Axinn Library for students to write their opinions on the proposed changes. The Center also held a focus group last Thursday, December 1, where they could clearly inform students about potential changes and receive feedback so that they could create a space students would enjoy.

Jim Shuart of Student Computing Services and Rose Tirotta of the Learning Support Department hosted this discussion to discover what students were looking for from the Hammer lab renovations. Shuart and Tirotta came prepared with handouts and slides outlining possible changes ranging from new desks and computers to the potential removal of the dividing wall between the two parts of Hammer Lab.

One student asked, "Why don't they just not renovate, and make our tuition cheaper instead?"  Shuart responded by explaining that the renovations are provided for by the budgeting department, so if they weren't already planning on renovating, they'd just be allocated elsewhere.

Tirotta added that, "Tuition is handled by a different department, we don't know exactly were the money is coming from."

Judith Tabron, the Director of Faculty Computing Services at Hofstra University, describes the upcoming improvements to Hammer Lab as, "an opportunity for students to say what they want."

Tabron organized the various outreach programs to find students' opinions about the future changes. Tabron and her staff are attempting to create an atmosphere in Hammer Lab that will alow students to study in a relaxed, aesthetically pleasing area, while also offering space where students can focus and study on their own.  She identified improved furniture as a primary method for creating such an atmosphere.

"Furniture facilitates how students work and it's time for change.  Hammer Lab needs to improve after ten years," said Tabron.

Calkins Lab, the computer and study space in Calkins Hall, was renovated during the summer intersession with cushioned, movable furniture for students to work and study in a more comfortable environment.

"Calkins was almost an experiment in student interaction," Tabron said. She and her team have been observing how students work in the new setting, using those observations to gauge the Hofstra community's adaptation to a different studying environment.

Hammer Lab has received no improvements in the last ten years, and the improved furniture is one of the main ways for the school to "give it a facelift". Steelcase Education Solutions, the contracting company that Hofstra will use to buy new furniture, was also used to renovate Calkins. The company focuses on creating furniture that appeals to the school environment, offering fun, colorful and comfortable study furniture. The company's goal is to "achieve a higher level of performance by creating places that unlocks the promise of people at work." Hofstra wants to transform Hammer Lab into a stylish study space that students will be excited to use.

From the student perspective, cost is a major concern. The projects Hofstra puts money toward always generate student opinions about whether the University is using its funding appropriately or not.

"The Hammer Lab renovations seem like a waste of money," senior Entrepreneurship major Matt Jerock said.  Many quotes on the posters echoed this financial concern, including one that asked, "Is this where our tuition money goes: comfy chairs?"

However, not all students were opposed to upgrading Hammer Lab. Sam Sason, also a Senior Entrepreneurship major, acknowledged that, "The renovations are especially necessary during finals week." Sason also added that a 24-hour study area, like Hammer Lab, should have a coffee stand that is open 24/7.

Regardless of their opinions, the Computer Center says students cannot claim they were not informed of this plan because Student Computing Services has made it their priority to get feedback about changes that students want and approve. The reasoning for all the focus groups, discussions and the posters was to compile enough information for the center to understand how the public felt they should proceed with the changes.

Tabron made it clear that if the students dislike the improvements, then she has not done her job successfully.

"I'm worried because I don't want to mess it up, but I don't want to do something that people hate," she said.

 

With contributions by Amanda Casole, Michael Sullivan and Rachel Tom-Quinn.

The Stanford S. Hammer Lab, a study space across from Axinn Library, has not received major renovations in ten years. Computing Services wants student input for coming upgrades. (Michaela Papa/The Chronicle)

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