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Sponge Dining Opens, Atrium Lounges Close

By Jenny Zhang


Four large lounges in the upper levels of Simmons Hall, previously open to students, have been closed off because inspectors from the City of Cambridge believed that their atriums would be unsafe in the event of a fire.

Fire safety rules require that the windows can be opened for ventilation purposes in case of fire. This rule and “the unusual shape of the atria required that mechanical opening devices be put on the windows,” said Simmons Housemaster John M. Essigmann.

The building’s design calls for the fire alarm to automatically open the windows, allowing smoke to escape. But this system has not yet been fully installed.

“Hopefully it will be ready by the end of the week,” said Housemaster Ellen Essigmann. “It is my understanding that the control boxes for regulating the windows are in and hooked up with mechanical parts that open the windows,” she said.

Students had been using the lounges since the building opened last fall, until Cambridge inspectors found out.

“Some students were a bit upset and put up signs, because these were spaces we had last term,” said Simmons President Vikash Gilja ’03. “We just have to wait it out.”

“We had been using the atria because there was a miscommunication with inspection people,” Ellen Essigmann said.

“We had believed that we could use the large atria as long as we kept the windows open for ventilation and blocked off the stairs with unsafe railings,” she said.

“We found out one and a half weeks ago that they did not want students in those atria,” she said. “They were serious, and inspected last week to make sure the spaces were clear.”

Simmons dining hall to open

Meanwhile, the Simmons dining hall partly opened on Sunday, with full operation expected to begin in a week.

“After receiving our certificate of occupancy from Cambridge on Friday, the space was set up for dining on Sunday,” said Housemaster John M. Essigmann. “The students found the food very good, the turnout was excellent, and people seemed to enjoy the overall feel of the dining hall,” he said.

The Simmons dining hall is currently serving food buffet-style. “We look to opening the full kitchen this coming Sunday,” John Essigmann said.

The opening of the dining hall, originally set for mid-November, was delayed because of “the unusual architecture of the building, combined with difficulty scheduling contractors,” John Essigmann said.

“I’m a big fan of dining halls because everyone can use them and get together,” said James Humphries ’03. “This is important especially when the term starts.”

Multipurpose room not yet open

Construction on the multipurpose room on the first floor has been delayed because of water leakage.

“The stage is designed for many purposes, ranging from lecture to dance performance,” Gilja said.

“Because of water leakage in some lower parts of the bleachers, we had to stop installing the audio and visual equipment,” Ellen Essigmann said, adding that she hopes the room will be complete by the end of February.

Simmons can only receive temporary occupancy certificates until the entire building is complete.

“The lack of communication bothers me,” Humphries said. “I don’t feel they are getting information to us promptly, but understand that some things aren’t ready because it’s the first year.”