The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Dislocation damages engineering clubs

“Formula SAE, we’re gonna need to go ahead and move you downstairs into storage B.”

We all know the line from Mike Judge’s hilarious cubicle-based comedy “Office Space.” No matter how much he begs or how hard he works, the infamous Bill Lumbergh simply moves Milton’s office to worse and worse locations until he eventually is placed into storage indefinitely, and to add insult to injury, Lumbergh takes Milton’s red Swingline stapler. Oddly enough, there is not just one, but a few “Miltons” at Drexel right now.

Early July last year, Drexel began the demolition of the Frederic O. Hess Engineering Research Laboratory. Dozens of engineering and science labs and clubs were displaced by the University in order to construct a combined living and retail space, Lancaster Square. Many of these clubs and labs were relocated; the unlucky ones were simply placed into storage.

One of the lucky clubs, Formula SAE, was not only relocated to another space, but relocated to a space that was significantly better than its previous location. In May, however, the club and the other student laboratories in the building received a notice that they would be moved into storage, for an indefinite amount of time, in a month. Replacing us, we were told, were several new freshman labs.

The comparisons between Formula SAE and Milton are striking — both are placed into storage by their employers, both work to make their employers look better and make more money, and both even work diligently without getting paid. There is, however, one striking discrepancy between Milton and the students in FSAE: the students pay Drexel upwards of $60,000 each year.

Being the newly elected president of Formula SAE, I was congratulated and sympathized with for having to deal with yet another move and interruption in the club’s activities. Designing and building a three-fourths sized Formula One-style car is difficult enough when you have a permanent location. When we were moved from Hess, we were promised to be in our new location for “at least a few years” and that our next location would be permanent. Well, we were in 3101 Market St. for nine months and I don’t see the team manufacturing a high-performance race car with a storage trailer as a permanent location anytime soon.

This year, Formula SAE attended all but one engineering open house to represent the College of Engineering. Oddly enough, during the one open house the team missed, prospective students asked several members of the CoE faculty where the team was, and that they were extremely interested in Drexel because we had the Formula SAE program. Once these few members of the engineering faculty realized our importance, they went out of their way to make sure we were provided with more support than we had ever received from the department. Not only does the club serve as a research club, but it also serves as a recruiting tool! In fact, the club is one of few student-lead mechanical engineering-focused clubs and the only mechanical engineering club to produce a tangible product.

As a mechanical engineering pre-junior, I do not understand the University’s intentions even remotely. Drexel has succeeded in uprooting dozens of its research laboratories two years in a row, setting back research dramatically, wasting money and frustrating the undergraduate students, graduate students, and even many professors. Drexel University prides itself in being a “research-driven urban university” and yet it is placing many laboratories in storage without any sort of plan on where they will be relocated.

The strangest part about this is that 3101 Market St. is going to be filled with freshman engineering labs. Wait. Don’t we already have freshman engineering labs in the Bossone Research Enterprise Center? I had my freshman labs there, and chances are so did any engineer reading this.

Why would Drexel relocate these labs and displace more research labs and clubs? Your guess is as good as mine. However, I think a more pressing matter is finding out the University’s plan to fix this indefinite storage situation. The only proposal I have heard was to move some clubs to an already crowded location on 36th Street and Powelton Avenue. Of course, this would require renovations, and, of course, they have been deemed too expensive. Now what? As the president of a club that is suffering because of this, I wish I knew the answer.

“Office Space” ends when Milton burns down his former employer’s office. While this is almost certainly not going to happen at Drexel, it does raise an interesting point: why should we as students continue to perform research and participate in clubs flaunting Drexel’s name, when, in actuality, they are only making it more difficult to do so? Why should we support a school with our hard work and money that does nothing more than move us downstairs into storage?

Hunter Hall is the president of Drexel Formula SAE. He can be contacted at op-ed@thetriangle.org.

  • Charlotte Hummel

    This is a shame. Drexel has been looking pretty new and modern and built up on the outside, but if they forget about what goes on in the inside, especially as it directly impacts students, then I wonder if any of the bells and whistles are worth it.

  • Lucretia Shattles Voigt

    Formula SAE is an important part of the Drexel curriculum – and a major factor in my son’s decision – and excitement – to attend Drexel. It is as much of a recruiting tool as the shiny new dorms. Is Drexel expensive? You bet. Is it worth it? It used to be. President Fry – it’s up to you to correct this!

  • Allison Tepper

    Formula SAE is an outstanding opportunity for students to apply and integrate their classroom learning. Its participants serve as ambassadors of Drexel and deserve the university’s full support.The administration needs to be transparent about its plans, open in its communication, and dedicated to providing a well-rounded learning environment. This situation needs to be fixed now!