Professors call for new science facility

University officials said they will consider building a new science facility to address concerns by professors who said current facilities are dilapidated and do not provide enough space.

At a meeting two weeks ago, the Faculty Senate urged President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg and the Board of Trustees to look into the construction of a new science building on the former GW Hospital site, located on the 2200 block of I Street.

The proposed facility would create 400,000 square feet of classrooms, laboratories and research facilities for GW’s science, engineering and mathematics programs.

“What we have now is half of what is really needed,” said biochemistry and molecular biology professor Linda Gallo, chair of the Senate’s Physical Facilities Commission.

Gallo, who led the push to devote more space to GW’s science programs, said the effort is being propelled by feedback from faculty, who are reporting that the current 90,000 square feet of space allotted to science programs is inadequate.

She added that officials have been discussing updating the University’s science facilities since the 1970s. Most of GW’s science departments are housed in Corcoran Hall, which was built in 1924.

“The talk about building a new science facility probably goes back maybe 30 years,” she said. “I think what brought it to the forefront … was the pending availability of the old hospital site.”

Gallo said professors would like to see the entire science department housed under one roof on the old hospital site but admitted high costs could stand in the way of the proposal.

“I suspect that it could be considered when there are adequate funds, but we don’t know when that would be,” she said.

The faculty’s proposal for the old hospital site is one of many being considered by the Board of Trustees, said Louis Katz, executive vice president and treasurer.

“We are looking for a potential site for a major science facility,” he said.

But Katz said there are several academic departments, including the engineering school and School of Public Health and Health Services, that are also requesting newer facilities.

Any new science building on the former hospital site would cost at least $40 million, Katz added.

Trachtenberg has said that he would like to see the 22nd Street site used for a multipurpose building that would feature academic, residential and commercial space.

The University took a major step last year toward upgrading its facilities by renovating the Mount Vernon Campus’ Acheson Science Building, said Donald Lehman, executive vice president of Academic Affairs. The renovation cost about $9.3 million, according to the University’s 2004 budget report.

The Faculty Senate’s recommendation comes as professors at Georgetown University are pushing for the replacement of a science building constructed in 1961.

“A new science facility continues to be an important project for

Georgetown’s long-term growth and discussions are ongoing to determine the specific uses and vision for it,” Julia Bataille, Georgetown’s assistant vice president for Communications, wrote in an e-mail Friday.

Bataille said Georgetown’s science faculty has been working with “limited resources” and added that officials are discussing plans for a new facility on campus.

GW science professors and students have also been complaining about the classrooms and labs available to them.

“Our current facilities are bursting at the seams,” physics department chair Bill Parke said, adding that in order to raise its rankings among other universities, GW must consider building a new science facility.

Shannon Ma, a rising sophomore who is pursuing a chemistry major and took a physics class in Corcoran Hall last semester, said the University should look into constructing a new science building.

“It’s important since this country is becoming more dependent on new technology and (GW needs) to research it,” she said.

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