By Nader Ramadan
After several years of construction and millions of dollars in investment, the School of Science and Engineering’s (SSE) new campus building still needs two to three more weeks of work before becoming fully operational, according to estimates by the school’s dean, Medhat Haroun.
The dusty floors, the empty unfurnished offices and the sour smell of wet paint on the walls are signs of an effort to finish off the job. With engineers and construction workers in orange coats roaming the extensive hallways, barking orders, the SSE building is still a construction site.
Though the semester has begun, many classrooms are still not fully operational. Some can be used for teaching, but lack the necessary audio and video teaching technology.
“We have 51 [finished] classrooms and they are working on 15,” Haroun said.
Science and engineering labs inside the building, though, remain deserted. Many science and engineering students say lab sessions were cancelled because the laboratories are not ready. Equipment has only recently been delivered to the SSE building and needs time to be prepared and properly installed.
“We decided to postpone labs till after the Eid,” Haroun said, adding the lectures have continued as scheduled.
The late arrival in lab equipment was due to logistical difficulties in transportation, said Ibrahim Shawky, maintenance supervisor. Some departments were supposed to start transporting equipment in July, but instead began in August.
Despite last minute construction efforts on the SSE building on the new campus, some departments have chosen to keep their equipment in the old campus to allow graduate students to complete their studies.
Among these is the recently developed graduate program in biotechnology, which will continue to use the state-of-the-art equipment installed in the old campus biology lab.
“We are not moving all the chemicals [to the new campus],” said Suher Zada, a professor of biology. “Labs will still function here.”
Graduate science and engineering programs will eventually move to the new campus after Ramadan. But for now, echoes can be heard in the hallways of the Falaki building, where professors are still lecturing in the old campus classrooms.
Graduate student opinions are divided over the move.
Construction engineering graduate student Mohammed Islam prefers the move because the new campus is near his work. “For me, it’s difficult because I have a job,” he said.
However, according to computer science graduate student Ahmed Khairy, moving to the new campus would not be beneficial. “Personally, I am indifferent. They say it’s a lot worse over there so we are lucky to be here,” he said.
Students are not the only victims of the SSE building’s unfinished state.
Faculty offices are near completion, but still not suitable for work. Until the offices are complete, professors can temporarily use the conference rooms “as a hub,” Haroun said.
“The problem is that our offices are not ready over there,” said mathematics professor Magdi Moustafa while sitting in his air-conditioned office in the old campus.
Even so, Zada and other professors tried to remain optimistic. “We are very much looking forward to the move,” she said.
Despite its challenges, the SSE’s new campus plans has been the recipient of much investment.
In collaboration with King Abdullah’s University for Science and Technology, the university’s science departments plan to expand their scientific research to integrated desert building technology, genomics, and nanotechnology, Haroun said.
With the extra space that the new campus offers, the university also opened several new majors including petroleum engineering, computer engineering, and mechatronics.
“We developed a plan three years ago to be the best in the Middle East,” Haroun said.