Improve the quality of classrooms at Amherst

Seating in most classrooms can hardly be called conducive to learning. Too often, large classes are crammed into small classrooms, where students who sit in the back cannot hear the discussion of their colleagues in the front, hampering discussion in an educational institution that strives to promote it. In addition to physical distance, discussion is hurt by constraining desks that make it difficult to turn around. Loud heaters and ventilating fans also disrupt the flow of discussion. Professors carefully plan their curriculum in order to foster discussion, and it is unfair to professors and students alike when the most careful efforts are derailed by the physical characteristics of the classroom.

We encourage the administration to consider enrollment and the nature of the class when making classroom assignments.

As the College prepares to begin construction on a new geology building, we encourage planners to consider detailed physical aspects of the classroom in that and other campus buildings. Erasers might not seem like an important educational tool, but when a professor has to spend time every five minutes struggling to erase a board with a low-quality eraser, it wastes valuable learning time.

Classrooms befitting one of the best liberal arts colleges in the country should have whiteboards or even “smartboards” (a new kind of technology, which links the professor’s and students’ laptops to a whiteboard).

Additionally, classrooms should have projectors that do not block the blackboard, so that professors can use both simultaneously. Every classroom should have a desk for each student-rooms like the Red Room where students are forced to hold their notebooks in their laps are unacceptable. Finally, classrooms should have sufficient lighting, and comfortable temperatures.

This complaint is not limited to students. Professors, too, are uncomfortable with the current situation. At the beginning of each semester, some professors attempt to get their classes moved to better locations.

We think that Amherst’s rooms could and should be improved. The first step is to ensure that all classes are placed in rooms where every student can hear every other student. Every student should be given an equal chance to learn and discuss the material with not only the professor, but with other students as well.