The Daily Gamecock

McMaster College students feel left behind, say building is out of date, needs upgrades

<p>A second-floor lab room sink sits inactive in McMaster College's School of Visual Art and Design on Oct. 31, 2023. Some sinks like the one in the lab have become backed up and filled with paint, students said.</p>
A second-floor lab room sink sits inactive in McMaster College's School of Visual Art and Design on Oct. 31, 2023. Some sinks like the one in the lab have become backed up and filled with paint, students said.

When students walk into McMaster College, they see a building with historic brick walls, natural light, eclectic sculptures and the two galleries that hold rotating exhibits and student art.

But a closer look reveals creaky floors, out-of-order bathrooms, faulty electricity, malfunctioning air conditioning, safety concerns and plumbing issues that sometimes result in flooding.  

Built in 1911, McMaster College is home to the School of Visual Art and Design. There are four major programs inside the school — art history, art education, studio art and media arts — which include 568 students this semester.

As the building has grown older, students said they feel inconvenienced by the numerous facilities issues. 

Students said they have seen leaky sinks in painting classrooms and general plumbing problems in bathrooms. Amy Chalmers, a graduate student in the Masters of Fine Arts program, said issues with the bathroom on the third floor have persisted for the entire semester. 

“It can create an uncomfortable environment for work and study in," Chalmers said. "So obviously, there are some things that need fixing in our beautiful buildings."

For fifth-year art studio student Alexander Jones, there have also been multiple issues with flooding in the printmaking studio. While using the equipment, he said he had to clean and mop the overflow up himself.

"It's the hydrobooth, like the plumbing under it," Jones said. "You have to literally take out the ink trap (and) fix it. And then the one under the sink, you can't even access it. And then so there's a flooding issue in the print room." 

After submitting a request to fix the issue, the issue was not fixed until the next week, Jones said.

The Facilities Department has received 17 maintenance requests from students and faculty for McMaster Since July, according to university spokesperson Jeff Stensland.

Stensland said that when a faculty member files a complaint, Facilities will come in, assess the damage and then make the changes needed.

"It's an older building, and it's heavily trafficked," Stensland said. "It's going to have some maintenance issues. However, McMaster really has some minor maintenance issues."

Facilities, Stensland said, has made other routine repairs throughout the building, including changes to light bulbs and the HVAC system.

Students also said that heating conditions are unreliable and that it is either too hot or too cold. Multiple students said there was a time period where the air conditioning was not working.

Issues with flooding and HVAC are just a few of the problems students said they have encountered in the building.

Fourth-year media arts student Lilli Kozlowski said she has had similar inconsistencies with the building's electricity.


A large hole sits covered in the corner of the printmaking studio in McMaster College's School of Visual Art and Design on Oct. 31, 2023. Some holes and other leaks throughout the school have created some issues for those who inhabit the space, students said.

"We just had a power outage issue in here," Kozlowski said. "And we have to have three extension cords plugged into each other to get enough power to run two heaters and a lamp. I mean, it's kind of an issue for a class where we need to have specific direct lighting." 

These electrical problems can be detrimental for students in figure drawing classes, said Mallory Taylor, a third-year media arts student. 

There needs to be enough power to keep the model warm and show the person or object being drawn, she said. Without this, students have trouble participating.

Brandon Glover, an adjunct professor of Media Arts and USC alumnus, said he doesn't remember any significant changes to the building since he graduated in 2010. He said that the equipment and facilities need updates.

"(We) probably need to address those things," Glover said. "Especially if students are paying the same amount of tuition to be a part of this school versus another school." 

But due to its historic nature, faculty and staff at McMaster College are not allowed to make renovations or improvements without the approval of the Facilities Department, said Laura Kissel, the director of the School of Visual Art and Design.

With regard to the size of the building, some students said McMaster can't fit students' needs without increased space. They would like to see the gallery space, classroom space and community space enlarged. 

“I think (McMaster) definitely could use some improvement and some love," said Christina McCurry, a fourth-year art education student. "I don't think there's enough space for all of the programs that are offered in the art department, and that we should be able to offer more if we had more space.”

Shakenya Franklin, a first-year art studio student, said she believes the art building needs a larger layout to increase the amount of art surrounding the school.

“I feel like they could do a lot more with art," Franklin said. "Put a little bit more art around outside, inside, make the gallery a little bigger so it can really represent us as art major students."

Being overlooked is a familiar feeling among arts students.

Some said they don't feel as prioritized as other majors, and others said they feel the school doesn't look after them. 

"I feel like the arts, and especially this building, is neglected," said Adeline Lamb, a second-year media arts student.

When students find issues in the building, Jones said it's hard to reach the people that could help them get fixed.

"I don’t think they care. But it’d be great if we at least knew who was making decisions because we don’t even have a face to a name. We’ve never met the dean of the school — never met any of the head people."

As needed, Kissel said the Facilities Department will come in to make upgrades to classrooms and change the paint on the walls. Other projects can take longer, however, and may need to be done when students are not on campus. 

For any students who are seeing issues within the school, she said she wants them to be comfortable enough to come and tell her.

"I want people to feel at home here," Kissel said. "And if that's not happening, then I need to know."

Lamb said that while she pays a lot of money to be an arts student and works hard to maintain her GPA and scholarships, she still feels like she doesn't receive the credit she deserves. 

"Even with all of these efforts and exhaustion, I feel like I'm not valued as highly here at McMaster and as a visual arts and sciences student in comparison to other, more popular majors,” Lamb said.

Chalmers said that while she is grateful for McMaster College, she believes it is in need of updates. She said that compared with other buildings on campus, arts students deserve improved conditions.

"While I do think it's in bad need of updating, I want to express my gratitude for the building that we have," Chalmers said. "I think there's a lot of room for improvement. And I look forward to seeing that improvement in the years and months to come."

Any students who see or are aware of any maintence issues in McMaster should report them to the Facilities Department, Stensland said. Students can file a complaint on its website.

Editor's note: Kate Robins contributed to the reporting in this article.


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