Lack of funds, repairs shut down Lincoln Hall

By Lee Ann Sangalang

Lincoln Hall will be noticeably quiet this fall. The 99-year-old building, located on Illinois’ most endangered buildings list, is in need of repairs, and in preparation for the hoped-for renovations all instruction originally scheduled to be held in Lincoln Hall has been moved to other campus buildings.

“Lincoln Hall is the second- or third-largest classroom facility on campus,” said Matthew Tomaszewski, LAS assistant dean for facilities and spaces. “There are about 17,000 students taking classes in Lincoln Hall.”

Planning for the move had been in progress for an extended period of time.

“We had been evaluating and working cooperatively across campus to identify alternative space for nearly 5 years,” said Jen Themanson, associate registrar for Facility Management and Scheduling. “We moved close to 350 scheduled class sections out of Lincoln Hall this fall … It was a sizeable undertaking.”

In order for a successful transition, the move had to take place when other buildings were able to house the extra classes. Themanson said the opening of the Business Instructional Facility created open space in buildings such as Wohlers Hall.

What proved especially difficult was moving classes intended to be held in Lincoln Hall Theater, the second-largest campus lecture hall to Foellinger Auditorium. Tomaszewski said 27 classes were to be held in Lincoln Hall Theater this semester.

“All of these sections had to be moved, and there’s just not a lot of space to accommodate that,” Tomaszewski said.

Themanson said these lectures were moved to Smith Hall and Foellinger Auditorium.

In addition to classes, academic units have been affected by the renovation plans. The administration offices of the college of LAS, as well as departmental offices for communication, political science and sociology are all housed in Lincoln Hall. All of these departmental offices have remained in the building for this semester. Graduate students in communication and sociology will also have their offices located in Lincoln Hall’s basement.

“The sociology TA’s are in a space under Lincoln Hall Theater which is secure, so they may remain there for now,” said Tomaszewski. “(But) we have to get the (communication) TA’s out of that bad corridor.”

Tomaszewski said the plan was to move graduate students to 704 S. Sixth Street as early as September.

“The basement of Lincoln Hall is just not a good place for working, and it is also not a good place for a student to go find their TA,” said department head Barbara Wilson. “We don’t like students to go down there. It’s not well lit. It does not feel professional. We want to provide the best for our students, to be available for them, to support them and invite them to join us in studying communication, and we want our work space to reflect that too.”

Wilson acknowledges the difficulties of having departments separated, especially with communication classes, normally all held in Lincoln Hall, spread around campus to buildings such as the Armory, David Kinley Hall and the Psychology building.

“Our graduate students will be on Sixth Street, our department is in Lincoln Hall and our classes are all over the place. Students will have to be very strategic when looking for help,” Wilson said.

Tomaszewski said he hoped faculty offices would begin moving out as early as next spring and be completely evacuated following commencement to begin preparation for renovations that includes work on the roof and gutters.

Department offices may be shifted to locations such as the Computer Applications Building and the old Social Work building.

Wilson said if the communication department offices move to the old Social Work building, then graduate students may move again to a more favorable location.

“I feel fortunate we have a lot of really good people working on it,” said Wilson. “But I think the bigger message here is that all students expect classrooms that facilitate their educational needs. Our classrooms do not facilitate those needs; our offices space does not facilitate those needs. As a department, we are willing to be flexible … but the longer this continues, the longer we will continue to be doing them a disservice.”

Campus events such as plays in Lincoln Hall Theater will continue to be held in Lincoln Hall.

Some final examinations may also be in Lincoln Hall.

Tomaszewski said if the building was cleared next summer, he hoped to be back in the building by 2012.

“The work may not take entirely that long, but we have to look at the academic calendar,” said Tomaszewski. “We would like to cause the least amount of disruption, which would mean we would shuffle around in the summer.”

The renovations were slated to begin this fall for re-entry in 2011, but the schedule was pushed back due to lack of funding from the state.

“Even if we plan this (renovation) schedule, it all depends on when the dollars are released,” said Tomaszewski.

“So much verbal support has been given. Students, faculty and staff have all voiced that Lincoln Hall needs to be repaired, but it’s unfortunate we cannot move forward. Lincoln Hall is a great historic building and the plans are just wonderful. We just need to start doing them.”