A Timely New Look in Vanderbilt Hall

by Sarah Higgins

There are new digital clocks in Vanderbilt Hall, which are a noticeable change to the Law School’s oldest facility. During winter recess, New York University School of Law building operators installed twenty two digital clocks throughout the building. Why? According to Professor Barry Adler, Associate Dean for Information Systems and Technology, the main reason for the digital update was to synchronize time in the building.

Many students have back-to-back classes, with only 10 minutes to move from one class to the next. Said Adler, “If the clocks in each classroom are off, even if only by two or three minutes, if they are off in opposite directions, ten minutes between classes can become, effectively, four minutes, not enough time.” The new digital clocks in Vanderbilt are a purported solution to this problem, as they can be synced more easily.

The Law School spent some $10,000 on the project, which took about two weeks to complete, according to Lillian Zalta, Assistant Dean of Operations, Housing, and Administrative Services. This is the latest attempt to synchronize time throughout Vanderbilt Hall. In the past, the analog clocks that formerly sat sentry in each classroom and hallway were battery operated. It would become problematic when the clocks lagged behind or stopped working altogether. This led to complaints from professors, since building operators were unable to maintain the pace of repairs for the old, analog system.

In a first attempt to solve the problem, the Law School IT Department connected the analog clocks to the building’s Power over Ethernet (PoE) system. As Building Manager Montey Thames explained, “The clocks receive their time input from our internet insuring that all clocks present the same time.” When the building used analog clocks, “they had to convert the data signal to mechanical movement.” As the clocks aged, the internal mechanisms began to wear, causing some clocks to experience a lag. Said, Zalta, the PoE-backed clocks “were reasonable, and they worked for a few years, but they started failing.”

Because the new digital clocks do not have moving parts, the IT department is hopeful that synchronization and maintenance will become easier. Aesthetics were also a concern, and building management worked with IT in an attempt to choose clocks that best fit the olden look of Vanderbilt and that didn’t make the space seem to techie.

The clocks have been met with mostly positive reviews from students. Second-year law student Sarah Hsu says, “I really like them. I like that they’re at the front of the class and digital so, I can sneakily look at them.”

Kushner Lounge is the only place in the Law School next scheduled to receive these new clocks. Thames says that building management “will continue to look for ways to improve quality of life for all professors, staff, and students,” and the IT department is working on installing a POE connection in the lounge to add a digital clock.

The clocks in Furman Hall do not run on PoE. Instead, they are synced via a centralized time controller, and received direct line power from the building. So, as of now, there are no plans to bring digital clocks into Furman Hall.