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Student Opposition Halts Death of ‘Dot’

By Kevin R. Lang


After students protested in McDermott Court yesterday, President Charles M. Vest and the Department of Facilities have tentatively agreed to save the “Dot.”

Facilities had announced over the weekend that temporary faculty offices (TFOs) would be built on the lawn between the Green Building and Walker Memorial to accommodate renovations to Building 18. The offices would be in place for at least three years.

In an e-mail message sent out Monday morning, Vest announced that the construction would be delayed after he received complaints from a number of students.

“The fact is that we have an urban campus and such informal space is in short supply,” Vest said. “The McDermott Court work will be held up temporarily for one last review of options.”

After meeting with students yesterday, Facilities revised their initial proposal.

“What we’re looking at is a somewhat modified plan that would provide more grass space,” said Facilities Director Victoria V. Sirianni. Facilities will hold a second meeting Wednesday morning with students and the architect, contractor, and chemistry department.

Facilities Communications Manager Ruth T. Davis said Facilities will be “putting the TFOs on the already paved part of McDermott.”

Originally, construction was scheduled to begin this summer, Davis said, but the Building Committee, which includes Vest, decided to put the TFOs up before the end of term.

Meeting with students productive

Davis was pleased with the results of yesterday’s meeting. “I thought it was great that the students expressed their concerns about losing green space on campus,” Davis said.

However, she also noted that campus modifications could become more common in the near future. “People have to realize that over the next few years there is going to be a lot of construction on campus,” Davis said. “People are going to be inconvenienced.”

Vest acknowledged that “it is a fact that as we undertake badly needed improvements in our campus we are going to have to live with considerable disruption.”

To avoid future conflicts with students over such projects, Facilities is looking to hire a second communications coordinator to handle community relations, among other things. “We’re working on a communications strategy for the whole capital projects effort,” Davis said. “We will definitely be looking for student input.”

Other locations considered

Sirianni stressed that Facilities had attempted to find other options that did not involve tearing up the lawn.

“We’ve considered a number of alternatives over the last six months,” Sirianni said. “This is an enormously difficult project to do.” McDermott court was selected because of its proximity to Building 18.

“We’re displacing the faculty,” Sirianni said. “We’re trying to keep all of the labs intact.” Office space will be converted to laboratory space as needed, and offices will be relocated to the TFOs.

“The idea is to create office space adjacent to the building and have a covered walkway into the building,” Sirianni said. “It will be close to their labs.”

Sirianni acknowledged that students and faculty would be adversely affected by the project. “It’s very problematic,” she said. “We understand this is going to be a real tough one for the community for a long time. It’s very disruptive.”

Students informed at last minute

The first major announcement of the construction was an e-mail Davis sent to an administrative mailing list last Friday.

“Ruth Davis notified the community over the administrative query on Friday, and it was in anticipation of people being out there and knowing that the full article was going to run in Tech Talk,” Sirianni said.

However, the story about the McDermott construction was not planned until this Wednesday, after work was scheduled to begin.

Davis’ announcement said that “on this coming Monday, April 24th, the circle in McDermott Court ...will have its soil removed in preparation for the temporary faculty offices that will be placed there in early May. These ‘TFOs’ will remain there for the three-year period that the building will be under construction.”

Sirianni said that the project involved “the complete renovation of that building” and that three years would be necessary because the building will remain two-thirds occupied. Construction is scheduled to begin late this summer.