October 11, 2012

Construction at Cornell Law School Poses More Pros Than Cons, Professors Say

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Since early June, a drone of machines has accompanied the construction of a new wing at the Cornell Law School that will house a lobby, an auditorium and two state-of-the-art lecture halls. Despite the noise, construction does not seem to be hindering daily activities, professors and students said in a series of interviews with The Sun.

In place of frustration, most have expressed a sense of excitement and eagerness for the new space. Staff said they are pleasantly surprised that the renovations have created few disruptions.

“We had assumed there would be a lot of noise affecting study in the library, but this has not been the case, as most of the disruptive noise occurred in the summer and well before school started,” said Femi Cadmus, law librarian and associate dean for library services.

One key reason the construction has not been a major distraction, professors said, is the location of faculty offices. According to Prof. Cynthia Farina, law, noise pollution has not had a significant impact on faculty because most of their offices are located on the opposite side of the building where construction is taking place.

In addition to avoiding the hum of machinery, faculty members have managed to stay clear of being displaced from their offices.

According to Cadmus, the only areas of the building that construction has affected are the library’s access services office and its rare book collection. The law school’s library is large enough that this loss of space has not been a major inconvenience, Cadmus said, adding that patrons can continue to access rare books by request.

Some professors noted that the construction has had some negative impacts on the law school — forcing faculty to enter the school through a more removed entrance-way and diminishing its aesthetics.

“I was surprised to what extent I had tended to look out of the building for a sense of the campus’ beauty, and that no longer works,” said Prof. Kevin M. Clermont, law, who added that he used to love looking out his window at the greenery outside.

Now, however, when Clermont looks outside, all he sees is rubble and construction — an effect, he said, mirrored by the experience of students who are looking in.

“The rest of the University community is getting the same effect in reverse: They likely looked at the law school on the way to campus and got a charge of beauty — but that is gone until next summer,” Clermont said.

But, like other professors, Clermont said the construction has been “much less” disruptive than he expected.

“They did the noisy stuff over the summer, and it was not very noisy,” Clermont said.

Echoing Clermont’s sentiments, many professors in the law school said the benefits of the construction will greatly outweigh its disadvantages.

According to Prof. Valerie Hans, law, the addition of new classrooms will give the law school enough space to accommodate the growth of its faculty and the student body.

“The new construction gives us terrific new state-of-the-art classrooms, and we sorely need them because of the dramatic expansion of the faculty and the student body,” Hans said.

Adding to Hans’ point, Prof. John James Barcelo III, law, said that before the construction, the “scheduling of classrooms was too tight.”

“We need the construction — this is not elective surgery,” he added.

Another benefit that the construction will bring is an official new entrance to the law school on College Avenue, professors said.

According to Hans, the new entrance will more fully integrate the Purcell Courtyard — a strip of greenery outside the law school — into the space used by students and staff.

“If you have visited the law school, you may have been confused about where and how to enter the building,” Hans said. “The new entrance solves that problem and ushers visitors, faculty and students into our wonderful and historic building.”

Workers are currently completing phase one of a three-phase plan, after which disruptions are likely to increase, so the current period of calm and quiet is only temporary, Hans said.

There are no set beginning or ending dates for the next phases of construction, but Hans encourages all Cornell students and faculty to “come and visit” as soon as the renovations are complete.

Original Author: Alexa Davis