New science building presented to legislature

As a legislative building committee looked on, the president of Weber State University, Charles Wight, presented a video on the College of Science’s projected new building

(Photo by: Tyler Brown) President Wight addresses the legislative building committee about a new College of Science building. He presented a video about the safety problems in the current building.
(Photo by Tyler Brown) President Charles Wight addresses the legislative building committee about a new College of Science building. He presented a video about the safety problems in the current building.

and the current one’s safety problems. The video presented the current building with a request for a new, state-of-the-art facility.

After the presentation, the main question from legislative committee members was about the safety of the current building.

“. . . at the moment, we have no other choice,” Wight said. “You are absolutely right; we have no choice. This is why we are here.”

The current science lab building at WSU was built in 1969. The building is constructed from prefabricated concrete slabs and asbestos-laden walls. The building is a parking lot away from a fault line with a seismically unstable structure.

“The building is not safe,” said professor Craig Oberg. “In the case of an earthquake, the entire building will collapse. This could lead to a catastrophic loss.”

Spatial constraints leave laboratory space doubling as office space and chemical storage. The fifth floor houses the chemistry labs, while a chemical storage room doubles as an office for a chemistry student worker. Many of the chemicals housed within the room are hazardous and can be dangerous in large quantities.

Students, professors and visitors are often shocked when they see the state of the current laboratory building.

“When I tour other labs, I wish that our labs could compare to them in respect to space, convenience and safety,” said Lauren Johnson, a senior in microbiology.

David Matty, dean of the College of Science, proposed the new building as a necessity to both grow education and the local economy. He has been working with this project since he arrived at WSU in late 2011.

“A new science lab building will provide space for all the departments in the College of Science,” Matty said. “It will enable them to grow and collaborate more fully. It will provide richer experiences in the discovery of science for all students.”

Figures provided by the proposal given to the legislature show that, since 1969, the College of Science enrollment has grown 250 percent and enrollment has doubled just in the last 10 years. The number of students in laboratory-based classes is constrained by the current laboratory classrooms.

“Today, science education is a central focus of higher education in Utah for several reasons, including . . . many high-demand, high-paying jobs that require a STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education,” Wight said.

This new building will not only support growth in the graduate programs, but will also alleviate life-safety hazards present in the old building, Wight said. He was a chemistry professor at the University of Utah for 28 years, so he said he understands the need for a new building.

The new building will cost $65 million, with currently $5 million in donations. These donations come through Alan E. Hall and his family.  Hall was present in the legislative committee meeting as an advocate for community support for this new building project.

The legislative committee thanked Hall for his community interest and donations.

“I am not only giving,” Hall said. “I am going out and raising money . . . I see all of this legislative committee as potential donors.”

Wight said the impact on the College of Science will be detrimental if there is no new building.

“At WSU, we have one building that provides science lab education,” Wight said. “When that building falls into disarray, it has a huge impact on the College of Science and university as a whole.”

Wight said he is optimistic that the committee will consider the request very carefully. He said he thinks WSU has strong support from the community and hopefully the legislature too.

More information about the science lab building is available at