Guest Opinion: EPB situation harms learning


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I am writing in response to the recent article published in The Daily Iowan about the mold in the English-Philosophy Building. As one of the evicted persons, I have some clarifying points I would like to very respectfully express to the university at large — especially to those in charge of Facilities Management and to those in positions of administrative power. The EPB situation has resulted in the displacement of university-employed graduate students, compromised learning for both graduate students and undergraduate students, and continues to pose health concerns to all who pass through the EPB.

Approximately 55 graduate students, all of whom are instructors and employees of the university, have been displaced. Many graduate instructors were given fewer than 48 hours to evacuate their offices, which housed confidential student records, learning resources, computers, and printers. Our department heads, administrative staff, and professors have been tremendously helpful and supportive. They have offered to share offices with us and have even helped us move. Despite the support we have received, the move has been very difficult. The move has also occurred very close to the English Department’s Qualification Exam, which graduate students have been preparing for.

The move, in itself, has compromised the health and learning environment of graduate students.
Graduate instructors have been granted a space in Seashore Hall. Seashore is not a safe building, either. As cited in a Sept. 10 article in the Press-Citizen, “Rod Lehnertz, UI director of planning and construction, said many of the original spaces are now vacant and unusable for various reasons including safety regulations.” In addition to safety concerns, the move to Seashore Hall has compromised undergraduate student learning. Our undergraduate students, who have classes in EPB, are now reluctant to attend office hours because of the distance. Seashore is more than a half a mile from the EPB. In order to allow for more accessibility to office hours, many graduate instructors are holding office hours in more convenient locations for their student—such as the Library Commons. However, spaces such as these can be noisy and prohibit instructors from speaking privately with students about learning concerns. Graduate instructors are invested in their pedagogy and perform their job duties with integrity. This move has prohibited graduate instructors from doing their jobs in ways that best facilitate positive student outcomes. This has been troubling, as student outcomes are a main priority.

Finally, there are questions about the safety of the EPB for university employees and students who remain there. It appears that the right to a safe environment that facilitates a positive learning experience is not included in the university’s Bill of Student Rights. It seems that a positive and healthy student learning environment should be a key priority for the university. The university should also take measures to ensure that employee workplaces are safe, healthy, and conductive to scholarship.

Corey Hickner-Johnson is a Ph.D. student in English and Gender, Women’s & Sexuality Studies.

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