UC Berkeley press release

NEWS RELEASE, 10/25/96

New offices and classrooms, bigger library, more computers are just part of extensive improvements at Cal's Boalt Hall

by Gretchen Kell

Berkeley -- Having struggled for more than 15 years with an inadequate building, the University of California at Berkeley's School of Law (Boalt Hall) is unveiling the results of an extensive, $16.7 million building and renovation project.

The improvements include a quadrupling of its computer facilities, new faculty offices, a library reading room twice its former size, a new student commons and cafe, new classrooms, a center for visiting scholars, offices for student organizations and Internet access in every office and classroom.

The 17-month-long construction project added 40 percent, or 50,000 usable square feet, to Boalt Hall, and another 80,000 usable square feet were remodeled. A four-story addition was built on the north side of the law school, and Manville Hall, a former dormitory adjacent to Boalt Hall, was renamed Simon Hall and converted primarily into offices and meeting rooms.

"We have been in desperate need of additional space," said Jesse Choper, a UC Berkeley law professor and dean of Boalt Hall from 1982 to 1992. "We could not attract visiting scholars because there was no room for them, our faculty was working in cramped quarters, there was no space for a clinical program, and there were no student amenities -- no rooms for their organizations, journals or even a lounge."

Choper added that the building and renovation was not done because of any expected changes in the number of students at Boalt Hall. For the past five years, the law school has had between 900 and 950 students, including post-J.D. students and Ph.D. students in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program.

A building dedication ceremony will be held at Boalt Hall at noon on Saturday, Oct. 26, in the Steinhart Courtyard.

"The building literally is a gift from Boalt's alumni and friends," said Herma Hill Kay, Boalt Hall's dean, who saw the construction from beginning to end. "The students, faculty, staff and administrators who work here are in their debt for a new and exciting setting to study and learn the law."

In 1989, Choper launched the improvement project with a $10 million fund-raising campaign. By the time he stepped down as dean three years later, $12.5 million had been raised through the help of more than 625 donors. Of that amount, $2.2 million was from William G. Simon, a Boalt Hall alumnus. In Simon's honor, Manville Hall, the renovated dormitory, now is called William G. Simon Hall.

Since 1992, $1.75 million more has been donated to the project, and the fund-raising continues.

Built in 1951, Boalt Hall had been structurally expanded over the years and received cosmetic improvements. But within the past two decades, the building and its facilities no longer could keep pace with the modern needs of UC Berkeley's law school community.

This fall, the school is very much up to speed.

Simon Hall features a commons area -- including student lounges and space designated for a cafe, a room for public meetings and receptions and a child care facility -- as well as three floors dedicated to expanded clinical programs and offices for student activities and journals. Of the seven floors in the building, the top three house new offices for faculty members.

The school's new north addition, which has yet to be named, extends the library and provides several new reading rooms and nearly 100 student carrels -- half of them for people using laptops -- where once there were only about half a dozen.

The top two floors of the addition contain faculty offices, a faculty library and a spacious faculty lounge with a deck.

In the 1951 portion of Boalt Hall, improvements include newly-defined entrances, several new classrooms, enlarged offices for administrative units and a new area with carrels for international and comparative law scholars from around the world who do research at Boalt Hall each year.

Kathleen Vanden Heuvel, deputy director of Boalt Hall's library, said one of the most significant changes was to the three computer labs, now housed on an entire floor of the library. One lab, scheduled to open in early November, will be for general word processing and printing as well as for Internet access. Another new lab is for accessing a computerized legal data base called Lexis and a third is for the use of Westlaw, another data base.

"Before," she said, "we had a small computer lab on Stack Level 8 of the library. Students had to take an elevator there from the third floor, and it was very slow. There were only a dozen computers, and the lab always was busy. You could hardly go in when there was not a line of people waiting."

Only a few of those computers were hooked up to the Internet, she said.

The lab for general word processing and printing will have as many as 30 computers. All are fully networked, said Vanden Heuvel, so that students can send and receive electronic mail and use Netscape and other programs.

In the Westlaw room, there are about 20 computers from the West Publishing Co. for use of that data base only. The room is three times its previous size, has all new furniture and is arranged so that students can work at the computers while receiving Westlaw instruction from a trainer.

The Lexis room contains about 15 computers and also has new furniture. Training in Lexis and other programs including Netscape is offered there.

Altogether, there are 65 computers available to students compared to 38 available previously, said Vanden Heuvel.

She also said that the library will have an electronic services librarian and, for the first time, two full-time computer experts and seven student lab technicians. It also has new space for the Robbins collection, one of the world's most prestigious collections of religious and civil law.

The building and renovation project was a difficult one, especially because the work was done while faculty, students and staff were in the building. Only the library closed during construction, since more than half a million volumes of books had to be removed and stored elsewhere. The cafe will open later this fall.


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