The previous issue of TechNews on October 30, 2018 contained extensive coverage of the opening of the new Kaplan Institute on Illinois Tech’s Mies Campus, from the ribbon cutting ceremony (attended by political figures such as Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, Senator Dick Durbin, and Congressman Bobby Rush) to an extensive written guide to the new building and its overall layout.
However, students not affiliated with either the Institute of Design (ID) or the Idea Shop have been met with a rather disappointing scene upon trying to enter the building in the past week since its opening - locked doors, empty chairs, and empty tables. To many, the building appears to be fully functional, its lights illuminating the entire western edge of campus, but it appears mostly empty. Understandably, this has left many Illinois Tech students confused: why go through the efforts of inviting the entire campus to an elaborate ribbon cutting ceremony and guided tours, only to lock the building right back up again the week after? To make sense of this, TechNews reached out to Howard Tullman, the executive director of the Kaplan Institute, for clarity.
In a written statement, Tullman told TechNews that, from the beginning, the plan for the new building was for it to not be open until January 2019, but that “for logistical reasons, we took advantage of a break in classes to move the Institute of Design and its students, staff and faculty into the building in October .” Tullman further clarified that the move-in of ID “was an exception to the general plan and timing.” For students not affiliated with ID, the Kaplan Institute and its administrators “feel that it is most efficient to adhere to the original published plan” of an opening in January 2019.
Before then, Tullman stated that classes and events in the building through the end of the fall semester “will permit additional students to experience the Kaplan Institute environment.” For example, ID is holding an open house in the building on Thursday, November 8 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Still, Tullman made it clear that he understands the frustration and confusion over how “in the excitement and publicity surrounding the formal grand opening, some students may have thought that the building would be opened earlier for everyone than we had always planned.”
In justifying the decision to continue to deny access to the building, Tullman finished his statement with “a number of serious competing considerations which you may be unaware of” in the hopes that they would give further context to the building’s currently restricted status.
The first of these items is that the building will be still be subject to “ongoing construction noise and interruptions, including building our the café, additional installations in the Victor Morgenstern Pitch, supplementary audiovisual (AV) equipment installations, and providing the final table tops in the Idea Shop.” He claimed that these items are “all works-in-progress which may present safety issues and other risks for people moving through the building.”
Along the same lines, Tullman also shared that Kaplan Institute administration is still working through the processes of “security and personal safety planning that will allow us to ensure that all visitors to the building are properly cared for…One particular issue with the design of the new building is that nearly every space is open and readily accessible to whoever enters the building, and so there are legitimate concerns about the security of personal and professional items in the work spaces.” Most likely, this consists of properly planning and scheduling the presence of Illinois Tech Public Safety patrols and sentries around the new building, alongside other facilities concerns.
Other staffing and scheduling concerns that still need to be ironed out in the new building are ones regarding the Maker Space and Idea Shop, “including installing cameras and other safety-related materials. As we add and phase in additional interprofessional project [IPRO] classes, we need to be sensitive to the limitations of these spaces which are now intended to be used by BOTH the students taking IPROS and the students of the Institute of Design. There will be plenty of scheduling issues and our goal is to 'walk before we run' and to slowly increase the utilization of the spaces in a way that is safe and also supportive of providing a good educational and instructional experience for all participants as well as adequate supervision.”
The final consideration Tullman provided as justification for the building’s opening being in January 2019 is that there are still outstanding concerns over “general scheduling arrangements and procedures around uses of the spaces that are intended to be shared and employed for several purposes.” The building’s very nature encouraged quick, pop-up style groups to occupy spaces without prior warning, so the building’s planners still need to “be able to assign, predict and regulate the uses of the various spaces in the building in order to optimize its use for the largest number of people.” Whether this takes the form of restricting certain areas for designated class times or having a reservation system of sorts still remains to be seen.
The Kaplan Institute building, by the information shared by Tullman, will be open to all Illinois Tech students, staff, and faculty in January 2019. Still, it is undeniably very confusing to many students that a large amount of publicity was generated over the building’s opening, with many believing that the ceremony and tours marked the official opening of it for operations. Believing that an “opening ceremony” means the building is actually open is hardly the fault of misinterpretation on the part of the students. That the building’s actual opening is not until January 2019 was not officially conveyed until TechNews approached Tullman for a statement.
Photo by Ethan Castro (He/him)