Building 2

Yesterday, I stood in the lobby from 7:45 – 10:45 AM, and again from 5:15 – 6:00 PM, to welcome faculty and students to the first day of summer term. I wore my best suit, my brightest Harold Washington orange tie, and what I hoped was a welcoming smile. The day, even at 8 AM, was brutally hot and humid, and you could see the relief of students as they entered our cool lobby. For those without headphones, or with music turned down enough to hear the outside world, they met my greetings with a smile, a nod, a return “Good Morning” or “Good Afternoon,” and very often, with questions. 
As one would expect, the second most frequent question was where their class was and how do they get there. Many asked where they could get their ID, their ID sticker, or a UPass. A small number had questions about where they could find the business office, financial aid, or admissions. I especially enjoyed the student who came in and said, “I have a class, but I don’t have my schedule, and I am not sure which class it is, but it is something in math.” The officers at the front desk and I, along with the help of our summer schedule, managed to get her to the right room. 
The most surprising question, though, and the one asked most frequently, was, “Is this Building 2?”
When first confronted with the question, I was baffled. There, prominently printed on every student schedule to the left of their classroom number, is a notation, “Building 2.” I could not dispute the fact. In an effort to be helpful, I returned the question with a question of my own, “Are you taking a class at Harold Washington College?” When answered affirmatively, I assured them they were in the right place. After the fifth or sixth inquiry, however, I had to solve the mystery of Building 2. 
Speculation among the staff on the first floor was rife. Perhaps Building 2 was the recognition that our current location was our second location. Others speculated we were designated as the second building east of State Street, the traditional Point 0 in the Chicago grid. An officer with gravitas then declared that each building in the district is assigned a number. District is Building 1, and we are Building 2. Someone has captured this fact in PeopleSoft, and we helpfully print it on each and every student schedule. 
Thus equipped, I re-took my central position in the lobby and confidently informed all comers that “Yes, this is Building 2.” Faces beamed upon confirmation that they were in the right place, especially when they arrived in the lobby 30 seconds before class time. 

I question the utility of this information. Perhaps other Colleges in the system with multiple buildings or satellites need this. For us, it just engenders confusion. One idea is to plaster “Building 2” on our facade and have signs in the lobby proclaiming our secondary status. Another is to hold orientations for incoming students educating them on the geography of City Colleges. Maybe we could even make it a credit-bearing class. A third is to print explanations on the student schedules. I suppose we could also just remove it from the schedules, but I am loathe to toy with the revered traditions that students have come to expect and embrace. In the interest of fairness, however, I am open to suggestions. Post away.

8 thoughts on “Building 2

  1. Oh, yes, building number 2! I was asked the same question today as I welcomed students with "Good Morning!" while awaiting the arrival of other important people to the College. I assured the students this was in fact Building 2 and they happily proceeded to their classes. When PeopleSoft was launched, Building 2 was on all of the Student Study Lists, so a "veteran" just gets use to the way it was assigned and carries on! We use to print a copy of what the "Student Study List" (how to read it) in our Credit Schedules. Even the students sometimes look at you with a strange look when you ask them for their Student Study List with, "what is a Student Study List?" It is their semester course schedule.So, I make the recommendation. When we register for the remainder of Fall 2011, we need a flash picture on the HDTV Screen on the first week of classes, "Welcome to HWC Bulding 2; Second City's downtown City College, Harold Washington College!" [Get the connection?] Then, when we print/publish Spring 2012 Credit Schedule, we show HOW TO READ COURSE LISTINGS as the building as "HW – Building 2" followed by the Room No.. The Summer & Fall 2011 Credit Schedule states as "HW-MAIN." The overriding point is that when we have these "oddities" that make no sense in 2011, we need to use what communication skills our students like, which is no hassle, straight forward, and online; and when they receive their Student Study Lists, just indicate to the student (even if you are repeating it 100 times a day) that this is their schedule, it is called a Student Study List and the building is listed as Buidling 2, which is this building. I use to say that registering students was like filling the seats of an airplane. When the airlines use to give you a boarding pass at a counter, they provided you quick explanations of what the boarding pass meant, circled your gate number, and pointed you in the direction of the concourse. The ticket/check-in attendant did this well over 100 times a day! Since online is now the way we want to register, we need to keep the practice going with easy to read instructions ONLINE that explain these "oddities." Anyone else got ideas?

  2. That last paragraph is funny. Well done.(And just in case it wasn't meant to be funny (sarcastic? pathos?), I'd vote for removing it; while I'm sure a case could be made that "transmitting superfluous information" is a revered (by some) tradition of higher educational institutions, I don't think there's any risk of faculty or students rising up to protest the removal of "Building 2" from the schedule print outs.)

  3. I was going for Swiftian irony, but as my revered former Professor Wayne Booth once instructed me after returning an assignment graded with a 'C', there is a thin line separating irony and sarcasm.I am still in favor of the one-credit "City Colleges Geography" course.

  4. You know, it's just correcting information, so why does it take "X Name, May I" to fix it! You know the game, "Simon says!" Bet you it has to do with ICCB and what is required in reporting enrolments for HW. If it is not ICCB, then elminate it from the data dictionary in PSSA! Let's move on to 2012!Miscommunication is the cause of most information processing! And, I was not trying to be sarcastic.

  5. I have big love for Swift, Wayne Booth and walking on thin lines; a noble goal not altogether unrealized. The big number 2 proposal was my favorite. I wish I'd just voted for that.Next time I will trust my reading. I almost never expect people whose jobs involve more responsibility than my own to aim for humor in their communications, and when I see it, I usually think I must have misread it. And thank you, George, for my new favorite sentence of 2011:"Miscommunication is the cause of most information processing."Absolutely magical!! Truly.

  6. This has been an issue for many years. I have been approached numerous times on this by students. You can imagine my relief when I noticed that student schedules were showing up as HWC-main. Now imagine my dismay as you say that for some students it is till showing up as building-2? How can we possibly expect students to feel comfortable when this is the case?Another issue that concerns me is the front desk. Here we have our president standing in the lobby and fielding questions that in most businesses would be handled by having a receptionist at the front desk. Is this an initiative that we can take? If security stays where they are, is it possible to have the other desk by the escalators designated the information desk? It only requires a person to give directions to classrooms, field student questions to appropriate offices, and operate as a general guidance person for the physical layout of the building. Frankly, a student may be a fine person for the job. Can we spare a work study student for regular flow and perhaps an advisor during peak times to assist?

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