Committee works to improve efficiency of classroom use on campus

Adam Lee was five minutes late every day for his Chinese class in Cobb Hall last year.

Lee ran from his economics class in the FedEx Global Education Center, but he only had 10 minutes to do so.

Lee said he was forced to schedule his classes that way despite the distance between the two locations because those were the only times the classes he needed were available.

323
Classrooms available on campus

49.1
Average number of desks per room

35 hours/week
UNC-system standard for amount of instruction in each room

17.7 hours/week
Average amount of instruction per room during core hours from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.

But while Lee was running between classes, many classrooms on North Campus were sitting empty.

The UNC Classroom Policy Steering Committee is seeking to address this problem by working to improve the inefficient use of classroom space on campus.

A report filed by the UNC-system General Administration found that UNC-Chapel Hill does not meet the standards for the amount of classroom space usage per week.

Jeffrey Hill, director of space utilization and analysis for the General Administration, said there is concern across the board that classrooms are not being used efficiently.

“Everybody’s trying to look at what they have and do a better job of using what they have already,” Hill said.

Carol Tresolini, chairwoman of the committee, said there are a variety of factors for low classroom usage.

“From a financial perspective, if we can better utilize our existing classrooms then we can avoid having to build new classrooms or more classrooms,” she said.

Tresolini said the University has seen an increase in class sizes during the past few years while enduring budget cuts.

Undergraduate enrollment has grown by nearly 18 percent during the past 25 years.

“Some of the small classrooms aren’t being used because we don’t have as many small classes,” she said.

She said the combination of higher enrollment with fewer class sections due to budget cuts has made it difficult to find classrooms that meet the needs of larger classes.

Tresolini also said departments don’t always schedule classes efficiently, which adds to the problem.

“What we sometimes see with departmental scheduling is there are other priorities, like scheduling class in a nearby classroom,” she said.

“So sometimes you’ll have a situation where you’ll have a class of 20 scheduled in a classroom that seats 40, and when we do that, our classroom utilization rates suffer.”

Another problem is that many professors don’t want to use classrooms in need of maintenance due to their degenerative state.

Tresolini also said that out of 223 classrooms currently scheduled by the registrar’s office, only 188 have proper technology installed.

But Hill said there has been a freeze on the state repair and renovation fund for two years due to recent budget constraints.

Tresolini said one classroom in Hamilton has a four-semester average of only 11 percent usage, based on a standard of 45 hours per week.

Another classroom in Howell Hall has had no classes scheduled in it in recent semesters, she added.

“We could definitely do better,” she said.

Contact the desk editor at university@dailytarheel.com.

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