As Wellesley College continues with plans for renovation across campus, the safety of various buildings has been a growing point of discussion among students. The issues of crumbling ceilings and unreliable elevators in residential halls are particularly troubling, and many students worry that these issues won’t be fixed any time soon. This concern was raised once again, when earlier in April, the College issued a warning about E. coli found in four campus buildings. Facilities Management, the department responsible for addressing these issues, is taking active steps toward fixing these problems and improving safety levels throughout Wellesley College. “The College is aware that updates need to happen. It’s just making a plan to do that in the best way,” said a college employee. Though the College no longer refers to its campus renewal initiative as “Wellesley 2025,” efforts are still in place to renovate numerous campus buildings. The Wellesley 2025 final report, which was created by architecture firm VSBA in 2013, aims to correct structural concerns in several campus buildings.
Pendleton West, which was specifically mentioned in the report as a building with “some very basic safety issues,” is currently under construction. The entire 64-page report is still available on the Wellesley College website. These safety issues, such as the need for good ventilation, are particularly important in studio spaces. “My main qualm with the old studios was the lack of ventilation. Especially in the sculpture rooms, I remember breathing in a lot of plaster, which was an issue because I’d be working in there for very extended periods… otherwise the rooms were great for working in,” said Diksha Gupta ’16. “I’m happy for the future students but sad I got very limited resources for my studio work at Jewett and old Pendleton.”
Campus elevators are another point of concern. An anonymous student said that “I have felt at times uncomfortable in elevators on the Wellesley College campus, including the Science Center elevator, the Beebe elevator and McAfee elevator. I have checked the inspection papers at times in those elevators and have seen their last date of inspection was two years ago… I…noticed that over winter break these elevators were inspected and have been brought up to code, which makes me feel a lot safer on campus.”
Despite these complaints, College employees are confident that the elevators meet code. An anonymous employee said that “the elevators are all maintenance serviced and up-to-date. A lot of the time people will see a certificate in the elevator and think, ‘that’s out of date.’
That’s because the real certificate is on file in an office.” According to Wellesley College’s website, Facilities Management is responsible for “providing a safe and comfortable environment through the maintenance of buildings, landscape and infrastructure.” It oversees crucial services such as custodial duties, sustainability and motor pool, which manages the College’s fleet of motor vehicles.
Trina Learned, Director of Operations for Facilities Management, spoke briefly of its multi-faceted role on campus. “[Our] stewardship of buildings includes the everyday work of running the campus—cleaning, mowing, heating—as well as the longer perspective of maintaining buildings and systems and improving them through projects and campus renewal,” she said.
“The Operations group within Facilities is responsible for maintaining each of the buildings on campus, locks, access and egress doors, et cetera,” said Learned. “In regards to the safety of building structures, this would be a building code issue.” Building codes are dictated by federal, state and municipal governments. They are enforced by municipal inspectors from outside the College, which means Facilities is responsible for ensuring campus buildings pass these external inspections.
While many students are still concerned with the safety of their living spaces, they appreciate the hard work performed by Facilities. “My neighbor’s ceiling was falling down in pieces,” said one Tower resident. “She filed a maintenance request and they fixed it that day, so it was… more annoying than anything.”
Though these issues are still prevalent, the College is slowly building its way towards a safer campus in the coming years.
Photo by Khalida Chin’16, Contributing Photographer