Lonsdorf: Here’s how Discovery Hall will benefit you, personally

An illustrated model of what the finished Discovery Hall will look like - though for now it is currently under construction. - Image courtesy of Rowan University Facilities

In my three years of studying geology at Rowan, I have never once had the opportunity to have a space that was ours.

The department is fragmented, to say the least. Offices are spread out among Engineering Hall, Westby Hall and Robinson Hall; lab space incurs into Science Hall. We don’t have anywhere to hang our posters with student research. We don’t have a bulletin board for relevant announcements. Events within the major are hosted in a mid-sized two-story house off the main campus on Whitney Avenue — the office of the dean for the entire School of Earth & Environment.

Maybe I’m biased to say that I think that the construction of Discovery Hall — which is set to house my college, but will mostly benefit the College of Science & Mathematics — is a good thing. Despite the fact that only one classroom is to be reserved for geology, it’s nice to know that we’ll at least have a classroom; it’s nice to know that my caring and hardworking professors can finally have designated space to perform groundbreaking research into topics like climate change; it’s nice to know that Rowan University values this planet enough to value the geologists who study it.

However, there are many voices within this university who have publicized their resentment toward other students being granted classroom space, cropping up on the Rowan University subreddit.

LOL at how “lower tuition,” “better facilities” and “better degrees” here are presented as the opposite of “geology building” – when in fact this “geology building” (Discovery Hall) will create those opportunities for students.

It’s confusing that on a campus where a single college (engineering) already has two buildings, anyone would have a problem with a different college getting one. It’s even more confusing that my Rowan community is choosing to single out geology majors for the creation of a whole building when we’re just minding our own business. And it’s most confusing that somehow us getting academic space, at an academic institution, is being painted not only as a bad thing, but is also being blamed as the cause of poor mental health services.

I am not, on the other hand, confused that much of our community doesn’t seem to understand why universities subsidize research in the first place.

Creating more research space at Rowan is a positive good for every single student at this university and, if anything, will create more opportunities for services such as those relating to mental health resources. Here’s how research funding works: researchers apply for a grant from an external organization, such as the National Science Foundation; whatever money they get in funding, Rowan takes 50% of in a cost known as overhead; this overhead is the money that keeps tuition low, creates services and keeps the wheels turning.

Yes, the research done at this university actually pays for part of your tuition. That includes the cutting-edge research that will be performed in Discovery Hall, which will be able to be performed better because of the improved facilities. Better research means bigger grants means greater overhead.

More research space, in any discipline, means more opportunities for all students.

I do not mean to imply that the other issues highlighted within these posts aren’t important. Improved parking, faculty compensation, spaces for other majors and mental health resources are desperately important. But throwing geology majors under the bus isn’t just unfair (we need those things, too) — it’s wholly untrue in the context of how a university functions financially.

There are likely conversations to be had about how overhead is actually distributed, but that’s a problem to take up with administration.

Discovery Hall, and the geology department in general, are not the source of large-scale systemic problems. If anything, studying geology (at the Edelman Fossil Park and beyond) has been one of the greatest ways I could have spent my university experience. Every student at Rowan should have the same resources allotted towards their success, as well.

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