Freshmen are taking classes in the Thurston Hall piano lounge this semester because of an increased number of classes and initiatives by the Community Living and Learning Center.
English 10 sections and freshman advising workshops are among 11 predominantly freshman classes scheduled in the lounge.
The decision to hold classes in a residence hall was made because GW’s campus did not have enough classroom space to accommodate a record number of students and classes, according to the Registrar’s Office.
The number of students registered at GW jumped by almost 550 since last year, according to the Office of Institutional Research. OIR also reported an escalation in the number of classes offered during the past three years, including more than 300 new undergraduate classes this fall.
No new classrooms were constructed to accommodate the increase. The rise in enrollment and the school-wide construction have led to a severe lack of space, University Registrar Brian Selinsky said.
“(Having classes in the lounge) was really a simple numeric necessity,” he said.
The decision to hold classes in Thurston Hall also accommodates a new CLLC initiative.
“We saw it as an added opportunity to pursue our goal of mixing living and learning,” said CLLC Assistant Dean Mark Levine. “We have wanted to do this for some time, and this year provided a combination of students wanting classes in residence halls and space working out this way.”
Some students said they do not see this as an “added opportunity.”
“I don’t think the piano lounge should be used for classes,” said Thurston resident Julie Vu. “Thurston is where we live and the lounge is for living, not for classes.”
Other students disagreed, emphasizing the convenience of classes in Thurston Hall.
“I have freshman advising workshop in the piano lounge, and it is really convenient,” said Thurston resident Carly Nikolayuk. “I can just roll out of bed.”
Student leaders said they question the decision to hold classes in a residence hall.
“I am very glad that GW is expanding, and I do expect some growing pains,” said Student Association President Phil Meisner. “But I sincerely hope that the room is not over-used by the University. That is not really meant to be academic space.”
Residence Hall Association President Alan Elias said the RHA was not consulted about turning the piano lounge into classroom space.
“It’s an issue we are going to examine very closely,” Elias said. “I like the concept, but we need to see whether or not it really benefits the students.”
Despite some concerns, Dean of Students Linda Donnels said the initiative came out of a need to accommodate students.
“The academic planners needed more space,” Donnels said. “And, if you live in Thurston Hall, it is a convenient location to have class. We are just trying to accommodate our students.”
Freshman Jessica Biren said she did not know what to expect from her first year of classes at GW, but she said one thing she did not anticipate was having a class held in a piano lounge. Biren has two classes in the Thurston Hall piano lounge, along with other freshmen.
But Biren, who has an English class and an advising workshop in the lounge, lives in Lafayette Hall and said convenience is not a factor.
“Freshman advising workshop is fine there,” Biren said. “But I have a writing-focused English class in the lounge too. The chalkboard is too small to be useful, and we have no desks to take notes on. It seems to me like I shouldn’t have to bring a clipboard to take tests. Classes just shouldn’t be there.”