Fire illustrates need for Art Building replacement

If the recent lobbying efforts of art students and faculty members have not been persuasive enough to convince the state Legislature to replace the Art Building, hopefully the recent alarm malfunction will be. Indeed, this incident perfectly illustrates what the consequences will be if the University and the Legislature continue to utilize a unsafe building.
The fire Saturday night started from the spontaneous combustion of two oils in a student’s locker. One student responded by pulling an alarm that failed to activate the sirens, and ultimately broke. Instead of being notified of the fire by the alarm system, students were evacuated by word of mouth.
The conditions of the Art Building — infestation by rodents, violations of fire and safety codes and inoperable safety devices — have certainly been well known for many years. And this building is also one of the most frequently used — few students use other buildings after hours as much as art students. Although the fire occurred at 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, there were still several students using the facilities. If a fire happened at another time — perhaps during the middle of a weekday — the consequences could be much more severe.
It is possible that art students and faculty members aren’t appealing to the true priorities of the University and the Legislature. Each body is more interested in grand, extraordinarily expensive projects than merely necessary improvements — like building the Gateway almuni center rather than renovating Memorial Stadium for a fraction of the cost. Perhaps the benefits of a grand new facility adjacent to the other arts buildings on the West Bank should be touted, instead of the current building’s uninhabitable condition.