Waiting for a new building, UK college sits in surge space

The Blazer Dining building. The building now houses many journalism classes on UK’s campus in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Last year, the College of Communication and Information moved from its longtime home in the Grehan Journalism Building to the Blazer Dining building, where the college will wait til it receives a building 

The College of Communication’s move from Grehan to Blazer Dining proved to be a rough one.

Since then, students and faculty have said that there have been problems, from live and dead bugs to conditions that students and faculty say restrict learning.

Since August 2018, classes in the College of Communication and Information have been spread out across campus. Before then, journalism students were housed in the Enoch Grehan Journalism building, known by its students as simply ‘Grehan.’ Now, most of the faculty members and classrooms are in the Blazer Dining building—one of UK’s surge spaces where they temporarily house organizations which are waiting for new buildings.

‘Not a great transition’

In the Fall of 2018 and then again last month, reporters visited the cafeteria area of Blazer Dining, which was used by students until the end of the 2017 fall semester. Live bugs and insects inhabited the cafeteria in the fall and when reporters returned many of the bugs were dead, but still remained.

The upper part of the building, where all the classrooms and offices are, has not seen quite as many bugs. 

 “I have only seen two live bugs to date,” said John Cruz, administrative support associate for the College of Communication and Information in September. “I do have to mention that the advising office in the basement continues to see live bugs weekly.”

Al Cross, associate extension professor in the School of Journalism, has not personally had issues with bugs.

David Stephenson, assistant professor in the School of Journalism, said that bugs had not been an issue in his office, but he has seen them throughout the building.

“It was not a great transition going from Grehan to Blazer,” Stephenson said.

UK spokesperson Jay Blanton said the university has recognized how this move has affected faculty and students.

“We know it poses challenges and some inconvenience,” Blanton said. “We apologize for that. But we also know – and hope those who are impacted know – this is temporary and part of a process that will lead to something much better for all those we serve.”

As for the current state of the building, Cruz believes that it has improved since the faculty moved in.

“The current state of the building has improved since we initially moved in,” Cruz said. “We would have liked the building to be in better share prior to move in, but the university didn’t care to keep the building up while student center employees occupied the building.”

Cross had a different opinion.

“I can only speak for my office and this part of the second floor… it is in minimally acceptable condition and it has not changed,” Cross said. “It appears to me that Blazer Dining is the low building on the totem pole when it comes to UK’s priorities about upkeep.”

Blanton said that Blazer is up to code and is on a regular maintenance inspection schedule.

‘Not optimal for learning’

Blazer Dining is not easily handicap-accessible, which makes it hard for some students. Cody Ryan, a senior journalism major, has had to deal with Blazer Dining not being handicap-accessible.

“The outside door leading to the basement doesn’t have an automatic door opener for people with disabilities,” Ryan said. “The door to the first floor is so narrow I continuously cut my knuckles and hands.”

Ryan said he also had to miss two classes last semester because the elevator in Blazer Dining was out of order.

“Meanwhile, UK spends millions to build a student center to draw more students to the school,” Ryan said.

Stephenson agreed that the classrooms in Blazer Dining are not optimal for learning.

“I feel more for the students than I do for the faculty,” Stephenson said.

Cruz believes that UK is not doing what they should for the building.

“UK has done the absolute bare minimum to make Blazer habitable for the School of Journalism and others,” Cruz said.

Despite this, most professors still use their offices in Blazer Dining, including Stephenson.

“I don’t hesitate to come in when I need to come in… I don’t feel unsafe in my office in Blazer,” Stephenson said.

A new Communications building

Blanton said that constructing a new building for the college is UK’s “goal and our intent. We need to raise the resources to get it done… We are working hard – along with many in the college and on campus – to get it done.”

Blanton said that the funding for the new College of Communications and Information building will come from the Kentucky Can Campaign.

“While some are upset about being ousted from Grehan and not returning, we all need to get over the state of Blazer Dining because we are getting a brand-new building,” Cruz said.

“Bottom line is our being here sucks, but I and many others are happy to be here if it means we get a new building… Our placement here is not permanent and could be worse,” Cruz said.

Stephenson also took the long view for the new building.

“I try to take a longer-term view of it and know it’s not permanent… If you look over the long haul, it’ll be a building for communications and journalism that’ll be good for us for many, many decades to come,” Stephenson said.

Grehan is now being given to the College of Engineering, after renovations are completed. 

“It is my understanding that the new dean of Engineering asked for that building to be dedicated to that college as part of his agreement to take the job,” Cross said. “It was part of his package.”

Blanton confirmed that Grehan was discussed with Rudoph Bucheit, the College of Engineering dean, during the hiring process. He also said that including Grehan into the Engineering complex will be a good thing for the university and its students.

 “The move with Grehan addresses two needs – one, it fits the College of Engineering’s strategic plan to significantly grow enrollment among undergraduate majors in direct response to the workforce needs of the state. Second, it fits a strategic need for the communications college and its students,” Blanton said.  

Blanton said the move from Grehan will be good in the long run for the College of Communications and Information because they are potentially receiving a new building near the IT building and computer science building, where they can work on collaborations together.

According to Blanton, Blazer Dining is one of three locations that are used for surge space when other buildings are being renovated on campus.

“We have to utilize the surge space that is available. Blazer is one such space for that,” Blanton said.

Other buildings used for surge spaces include the Lexington Theological Seminary and the Senior Citizens Building, which is located on the corner of Alumni Drive and Nicholasville Road near Kroger Field.

Reporters visited both surge spaces at the end of April.

The College of Law is residing in Lexington Theological Seminary while their new building is being constructed. The new law building started construction when the college moved into the Lexington Theological Seminary.

Jayme Ware, administrative support associate in the College of Law, said that the college has been there for around two years now.

When asked about the cleanliness of the building, both Ware and David Wright, assistant dean of student services in the College of Law, agreed that the building was clean. Wright said that the maintenance team is in the building every day cleaning.

The Senior Citizens Building is currently uninhabited.