Office space stirs controversy

When the Tinkham Veale University Center (TVUC) opened its doors in 2014, many offices in Thwing Center relocated to the new building. One of those offices was the LGBT Center, previously located in Thwing’s Hitchcock Hall. After the opening of TVUC, the vacant space in Hitchcock became home to the Office of Faculty Development (OFD).

The relocation of the LGBT Center in Hitchcock to TVUC left the space in Thwing open for use. The vacancy, however, has caused contention between administrators and student leaders regarding the the utilization of the facility, and whether or not it is efficient for the benefit of both students and faculty members.

Sarah de Swart, Director of the OFD, said the office is intended to “[provide] resources to help our faculty succeed in all of their professional roles.”

The OFD offers various programs, workshops and events centered around skill development for faculty, including the Mentor Fellows program, the Promotion and Tenure Information Workshop, a grant-writing workshop and the Senior Leadership event. Some of these events even take place in the summer, such as the University’s New Faculty Orientation.

These events vary in attendance. According to de Swart, roughly 15 faculty members attend the National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants Program, about 50 attend the Senior Leadership event and more than 100 faculty members attended orientation.

The OFD also houses the LGBTQ Research Group. Dr. Amy Przeworski is an associate professor in the Case Western Reserve University Department of Psychological Sciences who studies anxiety disorders in people across different demographics. She is a member of the OFD’s LGBTQ Research Group, which meets several times throughout the semester.

“The goal [of the LGBTQ Research Group],” said Przeworski, “is to get together a bunch of faculty, staff [and] even grad students who are specifically interested in researching and studying LGBTQ individuals so that we can … share resources and collaborate … to promote the work that we want to do while we’re here.”

John Patrick O‘Hagan, Chair of the University Media Board and member of the Thwing Advisory Board, is a fifth-year undergraduate student who recognizes the importance of the OFD.

“It looks like they’re really trying to get that office together for faculty,” O’Hagan said, “which, essentially, will be better for students in the long run.”

However, O’Hagan is dissatisfied with the OFD’s current location. He believes Hitchcock might be better suited for student use.

During the 2015-2016 academic year, O’Hagan said student leaders discussed their concerns about the current location of the OFD with Deputy Provost Dr. Lynn Singer. He claimed Singer said she wanted the OFD to be a space for faculty and students to interact with one another.

O’Hagan’s greatest concern with the OFD is that he feels it does not attract faculty.

“It’s been two or three years at this point and we haven’t seen that faculty come over and use that space,” he said. “We should utilize [Hitchcock] as student-oriented spaces.”

According to Singer, faculty members do in fact take advantage of the space, largely because of its location in Thwing. She says this makes the OFD easily accessible to faculty across the CWRU campus.

“We find that it works well for faculty as it is centrally located,” Singer said. “The Cleveland Room [inside Hitchcock] had been used for cross-campus faculty meetings for many, many years prior to the institutionalization of the [OFD], so I don’t think it would be more effective as a space for students.”

She added, “It is the only place on campus designated for faculty, while students have access to many additional spaces, including TVUC.”

While the area is not designed for students, Singer said “we have always been open to student use in the evenings, and a few students seem to sleep in the small parlor.”