Open and shut case of the arts faculty

December 29, 1995

Oporto opened the doors of its supermodern university arts faculty this month only to close them for a week - a postponement of the academic year paralleled only during Portugal's revolution against fascism in 1974.

Faculty functions were put on hold while the building received its finishing touches and the furniture arrived.

For a project 17 years in the pipeline, it was a minor hiccup compared with the death of the contractor, the non-arrival of construction machinery, and the raging criticism about the inadequacies of the facilities.

"A major public work always has delays," university managers told journalists.

Which explained perhaps the delay at the opening ceremony when the arts minister came at the appointed time, the rector an hour later, the chair of the local council later still, and the education ministry official never arrived.

Not that students and lecturers were eager to get started. Students moaned about the lack of seating, lecture theatres, parking, canteens and halls of residence. Lecturers moaned about the open-air walk from lectures to offices.

There are enough chairs to seat only 600 of the 4,500 students at any one time.

Rector Alberto Amaral blamed the former Social Democratic government, which concentrated on expanding student numbers when there were no facilities for them. He still does not know if the faculty will get the budget it needs.

Everyone says the building is an improvement on the former decrepit facilities, even if the design of the stairs means the gap between steps and handrail is big enough for someone to slip though.

As if that were not enough students do not like their new timetable. Since there are fewer classrooms than in the old building, daily classes go on till 9.30pm.

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