SUNY Canton faculty, staff and students have discovered some good amidst the unfortunate circumstances that displaced laboratory classes to Bewkes Hall at St. Lawrence University. A month after a fire broke out in the chemistry department of SUNY Canton’s Cook Hall students have resumed lab sessions on the St. Lawrence University campus. While faculty and staff on both ends have highlighted the collaboration and friendships that emerged, SUNY Canton students, although appreciative, have expressed frustration.
“For something that could have been so bad, it has turned out okay,” said Jamie Sovie, Instructional Support Technician for Biology at SUNY Canton, “Nobody was hurt and we have made friends.” Jamie currently commutes between campuses, preparing laboratory materials for all SUNY Canton labs while working closely with St. Lawrence University Lab Manager, Jackie teRiele. “I’ve learned a lot by watching Jackie,” Sovie said. The lab technicians first met after SUNY Canton moved its lab to the St. Lawrence campus and agree that collaboration is now possible between the neighboring schools. “If someone finds themselves in a pinch it is an easier dialogue now,” teRiele said.
Jamie mentioned that SUNY Canton faculty has been cooperative and flexible during the transition. “We are very appreciative of all the help we have gotten,” Sovie said. “We don’t know where we would have gone on campus and can’t imagine having to commute to Potsdam.” Professors have been unable to re-enter Cook Hall due to air quality, leaving instructors without laboratory and teaching materials. The faculty and staff are standing by to find out what the NYS Office of General Services will determine is savable and what materials will have to be reordered. Sovie noted, “They are all dealing and working with what they have… Everyone has reacted quickly and generously.”
Jeffrey Taylor, Associate Professor of Biology at SUNY Canton, commented that his co-faculty are lucky that St. Lawrence University has provided so many materials and got labs going quickly. Professor Taylor, who is currently teaching microbiology labs in Bewkes Hall, said the lab technicians have done a lot of running around to prepare the facility. “We’re thankful we had a place to do this,” he said, “The only other option was online labs. The students are getting the real experience now, not the simulated one.”
On the other hand, Professor Taylor and Sovie pointed out that some SUNY Canton students are frustrated. Jamie explained that students are losing time in lab because of the commute and are still required to cover the same amount of material. “The students don’t have play time, they have to get right to business and then catch a bus,” Sovie added. Students are crammed in the labs, sometime six students to one table, and losing class time because of the commute. “The class room is small, cramped, and ill stocked,” Sara Clark, a SUNY Canton microbiology student using the St. Lawrence facility, said.
“Having to take the bus to St. Lawrence to take lab definitely puts more of a time restrain on our activities,” said one SUNY Canton student. “We have to take time out of learning and performing experiments.” Professor Taylor elaborated that students are losing around 20 minutes of lab time each week. “The only down side for me is feeling rushed during lab so I don’t miss the bus returning to SUNY Canton,” said Marie Woods, a microbiology student. Classmate Teresa Fleming stated, “With the short time we have to do lab everything seems rushed,” but added, “It was extremely kind of St. Lawrence to loan us space and equipment for our microbiology lab.”
Although there are complaints, the majority of SUNY Canton students are appreciative of St. Lawrence University offering their facility. “I am very grateful that SLU opened their doors to us after the unfortunate fire that swept through SUNY Canton’s Cook Hall,” said SUNY Canton student Lindsay Ghostlaw. “Had they not, it would have been detrimental to my progression in my program.” Her classmate Amanda Zomot also commented, “It really shows that when something happens like what did, we as a community can come together… without their helping hand, who knows if I’d graduate on time.”
Approximately 25 SUNY Canton labs are using Bewkes Hall, representing introductory biology, introductory, college and forensic chemistry as well as microbiology courses. Bewkes Hall had previously housed the St. Lawrence chemistry department before Johnson Hall of Science was built. In recent years the facility was used for storage. “The custodial staff did a great job and I think it is important to acknowledge their efforts in getting the area clean for SUNY Canton,” said teRiele, “They had to move a lot of things to get the space ready and went above and beyond their regular duties.”
SUNY Canton summer courses in microbiology and chemistry have been canceled for the summer. However, SUNY Canton hopes to reopen Cook Hall by this upcoming fall. It is still unclear whether the chemistry labs will be rebuilt into lecture halls or if the section of the building will be torn down.