Profs say issues with Lind Hall project are disruptive

The $6.2 million update has proved problematic for the English department.

Cracks appeared in the walls on the second floor of Lind Hall after construction workers removed a supporting wall on the first floor.

Image by Erin Westover

Cracks appeared in the walls on the second floor of Lind Hall after construction workers removed a supporting wall on the first floor.

by Matt Herbert

Ellen Messer-Davidow ran her finger over a banister in a Lind Hall stairwell, revealing a thick layer of dust. A construction-caused mess is prevalent throughout the building, and many have complained that the project is inhibiting work for faculty and staff in Lind.

The $6.2 million renovation is making Student Services space and a Welcome Center for the College of Science and Engineering in the first floor of Lind Hall. These spaces will house CSE advising, a career center and student engineering groups.

The Department of English and CSE swapped spaces in Lind to allow the renovation to proceed, and it left the English department dealing with the issues.

Messer-Davidow, chairwoman of the Department of English, planned the renovation for the English spaces and monitored renovation with assistance from staff. However, the construction process has not been hassle-free.

âÄúIn late August, chunks of concrete fell through the ceiling of the graduate lounge and mailroom, landing on a Xerox machine and elsewhere,âÄù Messer-Davidow said. âÄúThe hole was supposed to be covered to prevent further debris from falling. More debris sifted through for a week until the hole was covered.âÄù

Paul Oelze of Capital Planning and Project Management said that while construction was taking place on the floor above, small units of clay tile fell through the ducts of the walls and landed on the Xerox machine. Construction workers cleaned up the debris and investigated the situation.

Other construction issues at Lind include large cracks throughout many second floor offices due to the removal of a wall on the first floor.

âÄúIt was never a failure. The walls were carrying some of the load, but not supporting the floor, just partitions,âÄù Oelze said. âÄúItâÄôs not a safety issue, just a cosmetic crack.âÄù

On Sept. 19, the University abatement crew completed asbestos cleanup in a Lind basement room that houses the Ivory Tower magazine. According to an air sample report from Facilities Management Hazardous Materials Program, pipe insulation containing asbestos was disturbed while workers were removing a protective metal sleeve that was around the pipe insulation. The report also notes that a crew was called shortly after the incident occurred to contain the scene.

âÄúNothing was released,âÄù Oelze said. âÄúThe abatement crew performed abatement on the same day it happened.âÄù

On Oct. 12, third-year doctoral candidate and teaching assistant Ben Utter arrived at his cubicle in the basement of Lind to find everything soaked in dirty water that had streamed through the ceiling tiles.

âÄúMy books, notebooks, student papers and a framed picture of my wife were completely soaked,âÄù Utter said.

He said he was disappointed that little was done by the construction company to acknowledge the problem.

âÄúIâÄôve learned from personal experience that when accidents occur, a little ownership of the problem goes a long way,âÄù said Utter. âÄúUnder pressure from the English department, the construction company did spring for the replacement of one of my ruined textbooks, but the cleanup of the mess was left to my colleagues and me, and if any sort of acknowledgment or apology was issued, we certainly never heard about it.âÄù

Noise disruptions have also been an issue for staff in the building. CLA Associate Dean of Planning Gary Oehlert said disruptive construction is supposed to take place at night when classes are not going on, but some staff and faculty members are still having problems.

âÄúWeâÄôve been told that loud construction is only supposed to take place during the evenings and weekends,âÄù said Valerie Bherer, a graduate instructor. âÄúEvery now and then, there will be a bout of drilling or banging that can be disruptive for grad students trying to work or hold office hours.âÄù

Professor Eric Brownell relocated his class due to disruptions.

âÄúFor one morning, due to noise that made instruction impossible, I moved my class to the lawn behind Lind,âÄù Brownell said. âÄúBecause of persisting noise issues, I have since moved my class from the second floor of Lind to Ford Hall, which has been fine.âÄù

Messer-Davidow said the task of looking over construction is too much.

âÄúIâÄôm trying to keep up with teaching, researching and administrative work, but itâÄôs an inhumane workload trying to monitor the construction and respond to all of the problems.âÄù

Messer-Davidow said she has voiced concern to CLA about the problems and workload.

âÄúI met with Vice President [for University Services] Kathleen OâÄôBrien who kindly assured me that she understands the damages and disturbances English has experienced, and has offered her assistance.âÄù

The project is scheduled to be completed by spring. Messer-Davidow said sheâÄôs worried about the effect on the department.

âÄúIâÄôm not concerned Lind will collapse, IâÄôm concerned with the work going forward and the impact on the English department,âÄù Messer-Davidow said.

âÄúSafety is the most important thing weâÄôre focusing on,âÄù Oelze said. âÄúBut weâÄôre also trying to keep the people and building operational and also trying to have the lowest impact possible.âÄù