Editorial: New Jamrich, old problems

North Wind Staff

Kudos to Northern Michigan University for recognizing the need for a new building to replace Jamrich. The original building was old and used for a majority of the classes on campus, which means the upgrade was welcomed by students and faculty alike.

Comic Credit: Dorsey Sprouls
Comic Credit: Dorsey Sprouls

Why, then, did we construct the new Jamrich—at a price tag of $33.4 million—with such carelessness? The building itself is gorgeous. The glass and stone interior is modern and makes us feel a bit more cosmopolitan. The clock on the outside is practical and the large amount of space is useful. Yet, some critical details were overlooked.

The tables in some of the classrooms are set up six seats per two tables, which means some students have to sit with their backs to the professor. Solution? Split the tables. But, now there are still three students to one table…and very little space. This could be an issue at exam times.

In addition, the design of the restrooms were ill-conceived. There have been complaints that the men’s bathroom, at least at one time, had three urinals fully visible to anyone who passed by the open bathroom door. To add to that, it’s only the second week of class and already one of the stalls in the women’s restroom doesn’t lock, simply because it wasn’t lined up properly. Not to mention a broken soap dispenser. And then, on Wednesday, a door knob fell off of a secure access door. A door knob….

There is also a lack of electrical outlets. In turn, professors are forced to use a number of extension cords in faculty offices and in classrooms to reach laptops and projection screens.

Also, for a building with 136,000 square feet, you’d expect more than one elevator. During the first week of school, the elevator was broken several times when faculty were moving in. Students with physical disabilities need a working elevator to reach their classes.

Let’s move on to the lecture halls. Old Jamrich had a very sloped floor in the seating area, which allowed students in any seat to see the board and professor at all angles. They were all decent spots. The big lecture hall in the new Jamrich was not built similarly. It has a claustrophobic feel to the seating, and if someone tall sits in front of you, say goodbye to your view.

This is not to say we aren’t thankful for Jamrich. It’s nice to have a new building to house a large number of classes. We just ask why the design for this building wasn’t better thought out, considering it is supposed to be used for decades to come. We wish the architects would have asked us. But it seems as if the process was rushed. Contractors seemed focused on the aesthetics of the building rather than the functionality. Is there a trend here? Ahem, considering the new branding campaign, are we trying to change our image so much that we have let slip our Yooper practicality? Are we trying to make ourselves look better, to then feel better and eventually be better? Who knows.