As student enrollment and faculty employment continues to climb, overcrowding is becoming a prevalent issue at Coastal.
With multiple construction projects aimed at fixing issue, CCU administration has had to be creative with space allocation.
Many lecturers are losing their offices for the fall semester and are being forced to hold office hours online or elsewhere on campus.
Lecturer of Communication, Dr. Andrea Bergstrom, said that this will be a big change for everyone affected.
“I think it will be a pretty big adjustment for students and faculty,” said Bergstrom. “Lecturers carry a large course load and in any given semester one might have 150 students. Those students are now not going to have the same access to faculty. Since there are 6 lecturers in comm and each have around 150 students a piece, there are a lot of students that are going to have less access to this particular group of faculty, which I am a part of.”
Due to the lack of space, lecturers are having to move office hours online or by appointment only.
Bergstrom said that this could shift the relationship between students and faculty.
“We’re going to have online office hours but it really impacts the student/faculty relationship,” said Bergstrom. “The type of conversations and interactions we have via g-chat versus a face-to-face office setting are very limited. Some topics really require a face-to-face interaction.”
While some feel that students and faculty will be negatively affected, Associate Professor of Communication and incoming chair of the department, Dr. Wes Fondren, said he thinks it could be a positive situation.
“I think this, in some ways, might help student retention,” said Fondren. “Faculty members will end up being more available online and if you think about how most students want to meet with the faculty members, they want someone they can chat with or can logon to the Moodle forum or they can email. Faculty will also have office hours in the library, dorms, or other areas on campus. As odd as it might sound, one of the surprise effects might be that the faculty members end up being where students are at more, rather than them having to come to us.”
Offices are not the only thing being impacted by the lack of space.
Some classes are being held in the library, student union and even in the dorms.
Fondren said that these locations offer a unique classroom experience.
“I have been extremely impressed with how the university has tackled this problem,” said Fondren. “I teach a class in the movie theatre and it’s a super cool room. I’m able to show movie clips and have great sound, which you wouldn’t have in a normal classroom.”
Because of the immediate need for space, even Coastal’s administration has to make sacrifices.
According to Fondren, the Dean of the Edwards, Daniel Ennis is doing all that he can to help the issue with space.
“Even the dean had a temporary wall put up in his office to cut it in half so that he could share his office with someone else,” said Fondren. “Even from the top-down, his willingness to do something unusual for a while to get through this is very encouraging.”
Although inconvenient for some, the overcrowding is temporary.
The current projects geared at helping with the lack of space are estimated to be completed in the next year.
Construction of Britain II and a $7 million renovation to the Smith Science Building are set to be finished in the summer of 2017, while the Science annex is predicted to be completed by the end of May 2016.
While Coastal may be experiencing “growing pains,” data from the National Student Clearinghouse in 2015 showed overall college enrollment in a decline.
The study found that enrollment at postsecondary institutions had decreased by 1.7% from the previous year.
Bergstrom said that she has experienced the decline first hand.
“Having worked previously at a university that had major retention issues and a declining student body, we had a lot of space but not the students to fill them,” said Bergstrom. “I think that it is a good problem to have as far as problems go. It means that the school is growing and is high demand and that is obviously good for our university and for our majors.”
Fondren also stressed that, although it may be uncomfortable, growth is a good problem to have.
“I have friends at other schools where their problem is that they have empty classrooms and their universities aren’t growing,” said Fondren. “We’re seeing a lot of universities get smaller but what is happening here for us is that we are experiencing the painful positive of growth, like when a kid’s shoes are too tight. In a weird sort of way, this is exciting. The problems that we have are the problems that you want to look for in a school.”