Public Affairs Center or Performing Arts Center?

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Anyone from the College of Public Affairs and Administration (CPAA) on campus is familiar with PAC, either as the Public Affairs Center or the Performing Arts Center depending on who you ask. This semantic distinction has become more important as several professors and students have raised the issue of theater events disrupting classes in PAC. Is PAC a public affairs center with a theater, or a performing arts center with classrooms?

Richard Gilman-Opalsky, associate professor of political science, has been dealing with this issue for several years, saying that he has “been trying to address the issue formally since 2013.” The issue, as Gilman-Opalsky puts it, is that PAC is a multipurpose building, and one of the purposes of the building is holding courses, and courses “cannot be held against noise disruptions,” such as those created by the events of the Performing Arts Center.

Gilman-Opalsky said that “The primary purpose of the university is education,” this is not meant to diminish the value of the events of the theater, Gilman-Opalsky noted that “the concerts and performances … that are hosted in the Performing Arts Center are very important,” but he says that these events “cannot be and should not be scheduled in juxtaposition to the primary purpose of the university.”

Gilman-Opalsky described the extent of the problem, saying that he has had to dismiss graduate seminars early because they had been disrupted to the point that “we could not carry on.” He presented this issue in 2016 and received reassurances that once the student union was built, events would no longer be held in the lobby of PAC.

Gilman-Opalsky acknowledges that many of the events have been shifted to the Student Union. Still, “There seems to have been no real effort to gauge the volume of the events being held [in PAC] in relation to the classes being taught.”

The events in the Performing Arts Center are usually scheduled in the evening, which means that they do not create an issue for classes held during the day, “but we have had that as well when there were loud events in the lobby.”

Aside from the events themselves, there have been significant amounts of construction, particularly this semester during class times. “Much of which,” Gilman- Opalsky said, “could have been completed during spring break or over the weekend.” This construction does occur during the day, “sometimes directly on top of my classroom.” Gilman- Opalsky said that several of his colleagues had experienced the problem, but said that “there’s no survey that has ever been done … if the university would take seriously the complaints, they could very easily administer a survey to the faculty that teach here and they could find out how many people have had their classes disrupted.”

This survey, he believes, could have been done at any time and without difficulty, “but there’s never been any real effort to solve the problem.” He raised these issues with the last provost, Lynn Pardie, who said shortly before she left that she had been trying to deal with the issues, but she could not find a solution.

Other professors have expressed similar sentiments regarding the problematic nature of the disruptions, including the current chair of the political science department, John Transue. Some professors have even expressed fears that he problem will become worse in the future as more events are held in the PAC lobby.

Aside from this, several students have cited these disruptions as a problem, saying that the noise has disrupted class discussions and lectures, as well as midterm exams. One student in particular, Brock Titlow who is currently pursuing his master’s degree in political science, said that “this is a real

problem, and it is one that only the College of Public Affairs and Administration has to deal with. It’s not fair to the students paying to be here, and it’s not fair to our professors. The administration needs to take our complaints more seriously.”

When asked for comment, the Provost’s office stated that they had “not received any complaints or heard any concerns about” these issues.

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