David Matty, the recently appointed dean of the College of Science, said he knows that much has changed since 1969 — the advent of the Internet, eBook readers, Intel’s i7 quad core processor. However, one thing remains unchanged — Weber State University’s Science Lab Building.
‘Think of all of the changes in the past four years. One huge thing is the iPhone and other smartphones. They have drastically changed our way of life. Now multiply that by 10 . . . that’s what we’re facing.”
Matty explained that the 42-year-old Science Lab Building, located on WSU’s northeastern part of campus, has served its purpose and that, for many reasons, a new science building is necessary.
“For one thing, while students get an excellent education here in the College of Science, their education could be even better with more up-to-date equipment and more space to gather and collaborate,” Matty said.
Space has been an issue since the beginning, said Spencer Seager, professor of chemistry and longest-tenured professor at WSU. Seager was part of the original committee that oversaw the construction of the current science building, and said that many corners were cut in the building’s construction.
“I’ve always said that this building was designed by amateurs and built by crooks,” he said.
Recently, due to the fire codes and other hazards, all furniture that was formerly housed in the halls of the Science Lab Building has been removed. Students used these areas as a place to study and get together to pool resources, but now are forced to find other areas in which they can study.
“Students need a place to work,” Seager said. “In the original design of the building, all of the pipes and electrical work were to placed in the white columns on the perimeter of the building. Instead, the piping takes up other space within our labs and other rooms, cutting down on space that could be used otherwise.”
Throughout the years, the College of Science has acquired many instruments and equipment for undergraduate research and experiments and for students taking labs that correspond with lecture-based courses. Some of these devices now are stored on workbenches, areas where students could perform experiments.
WSU student and chemistry major Brandon Price has worked in the chemistry stockroom for two years and has had extensive experience working around the shortcomings of the building.
“The draining systems in the labs on the sixth floor are horrible,” he said. “They’ve had to place large tubes in within drains; otherwise there would be many leaks due to the cracks in the drains.”
According to both Seager and Matty, the building does not meet current seismic safety standards.
“I’d really hate to be in this building in the event of an earthquake,” Seager said. “You might just get smashed like a bug.”
But WSU has a plan.
Topping WSU’s building wish list is a new science building, which would be funded by the state, followed by a non-state-funded renovation of the Social Sciences Building.
Brad Mortensen, vice president of University Advancement, said that Buildings 3 and 4 would be removed and, in their place, a new, state-of-the-art $60 million science building would take its place — similar to what happened with former Buildings 1 and 2 and the new Elizabeth Hall.
“There are many hoops we have to jump through in order to get a new building,” Mortensen said. “President Millner likes to say that it takes 3-5 years to get the funding of a new building through the legislative process — and we’re in year one.”
The construction of public university buildings has to be approved not only by Utah’s state legislature, but also by the Utah State Board of Regents.
Some members of the USBR visited WSU in August to examine the building and determine the need of a new one. The USBR will be meeting on Sept. 23 at Snow College, where WSU will make its case.
“It would be nice to work in a place without asbestos and leaks,” Price said.