Horizon Hall, the new home of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, will open on the first day of the spring semester
BY LIANNA BROWN NEWS EDITOR
Horizon Hall, the new academic building at Mason and the new home to the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, will open for classes on Jan. 25.
Replacing Robinson Hall, Horizon Hall is the central part of the Core Campus Project, a construction project that will “create a vibrant, globally connected hub for intellectual exploration in the center of George Mason University’s Fairfax Campus,” according to Mason’s website. The Core Campus Project experienced delays due to disruption in their supply chain and limited workforce availability from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Horizon Hall is a six-story, 218,000-square-foot building which will be the central CHSS building and also house classrooms, conference rooms, community spaces and more. The classrooms can normally accommodate 24 to 120 students, though COVID-19 restrictions will limit class size capacity to 30 or 40 percent.
While the building will be opening four classrooms on Jan. 25, the project is not yet complete. Robinson B must be torn down to make room for the terraced amphitheater and meditation garden, and will be demolished once Horizon Hall is occupied. And some furniture must still be installed on the upper levels of Horizon Hall.
Upon completion of Horizon Hall, utility infrastructure work will begin on the west side of Wilkins Plaza, including a new water feature, the new Enslaved People of George Mason memorial and improvements to the George Mason statue. The east side of Wilkins Plaza near Southside and David King Hall opened in August, and improvements to the area include new student voices walls, a slate wall, new tables and chairs, and smart poles that provide WiFi, lighting and power connections.
Despite the state-of-the-art facility, CHSS faculty, including Associate Professor of Communication Tim Gibson, have expressed concerns about overcrowding of offices in Horizon Hall.
In 2013, Mason called for the replacement of Robinson Hall; in its place, Horizon Hall would be constructed to combat overcrowding of offices and a lack of classroom space. But the new building will likely exacerbate this problem: 33 percent of CHSS faculty will be forced to share an office, and the shared offices will be the same size as the private offices faculty use today, according to Gibson.
A 2020 report completed by the Mason chapter of the American Association of University Professors showed that CHSS faculty used their private offices regularly, believe it makes them more effective researchers and teachers, and believe it discourages students from sharing private information, such as Title IX concerns.
Gibson explained that the core issue here is student privacy —if faculty are sharing offices, students’ privacy will be jeopardized.
“It [having private offices] is important to us because it’s important to students. If you’re struggling in a class and you need to meet with a professor to talk about the material, most students don’t want an audience when talking about that. Private offices give faculty the privacy they need to do their work, but most of all it’s about giving students the privacy that they need so that we can build strong mentoring relationships with them,” Gibson said.