New system changes RIT buildings into hallowed halls

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A. Sue Weisler

Dave Mullaney, an original member of RIT’s Campus Building Identity Committee, recommended the university officially designate its academic buildings as “halls.”

If somebody asked you to locate Building 8, could you do it? Perhaps. What if that person identified it as the Gosnell Building? Could you find it then? Perhaps not. And why is this campus community inclined to refer to its structures as “buildings” anyway?

“I never visited a campus that called things ‘buildings’ before,” laments Dave Mullaney, third-year information technology student in the B. Thomas Golisano College of Computing and Information Sciences. “I went to the University of Vermont over the summer and everything there was a ‘hall.’” 

This past year, Mullaney served as the Student Government representative to RIT’s Campus Building Identity Committee. The committee—which also includes a cross section of faculty, staff and administrators—is charged with planning and implementing a new system to better identify campus facilities. Signage and mapping remain key considerations, but instituting a consistent use of names has also been identified as a priority. Mullaney suggested renaming each academic building a hall—a designation previously reserved for the residential facilities—and committee members agreed.

“Now there’s a chance to start making this campus feel warmer, a little bit more academic and collegiate in nature,” he says.

In addition, the committee is moving to wean the campus community from the use of building numbers as primary identifiers, instead emphasizing donors and other RIT champions whose names, in many cases, are already associated with these facilities.

“Many of the donors and their various descendants we spoke with were not only supportive of the idea, they were thrilled by the potential it has to really soften the campus,” explains Lisa Cauda, RIT’s vice president for development and alumni relations. “The donors were impressed, though not surprised, that the suggestion to switch to ‘halls’ came from one of RIT’s talented students.” 

However, the changeover is not a small undertaking. 
Many print and online designations will need to be addressed. Currently the Registrar’s Office uses the numeric code to identify facilities. New three-letter abbreviations have been identified and will be implemented at the conclusion of the 2009-2010 academic year. Another issue being considered: how to identify buildings that don’t currently have names.

Various changes will be introduced throughout the year through regular communications and new signage. Mullaney recognizes that this may prompt some initial confusion, but he hopes the long-term impact will outweigh some initial inconvenience.

“I think if everybody just takes solace in the fact that this is something that’s going to help students, faculty, staff and visitors in the future, it will be a worthwhile experience.”