September 14, 2001

North Wing of MVR Condemned

Print More

When College of Human Ecology students returned from their summer respite, they may have been surprised to find that the college had been thrown into disarray while they were gone.

The confusion began after Patsy M. Brannon, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology, announced on July 10 that all occupants of Martha Van Rensselaer Hall’s (MVR) north wing would have to be relocated to temporary offices due to the building’s structural problems.

The north wing of MVR, which was built in 1966, was closed indefinitely after experts found that the floor slabs did not meet current State Building Code for load capacity.

Facilities personnel noticed the irregularities in the floor several months ago while the college was undertaking a renovation project that included the removal of deteriorated carpet.

“It was a shock,” Brannon said. “The students are largely unaware that the building has been closed and of the turmoil that’s gone on.”

Current events may have affected the rebuilding process.

“The MVR building is pressing hard on the University. The new tragedy [in New York City] will make other things the highest priority. New York [State] can’t agree on a budget, [so the] project has to wait,” said President Hunter R. Rawlings III.

Since the announcement, 207 members of the human ecology college’s faculty and staff have been relocated to the Old Mann building, formerly called Mann Library.

Offices now located in the Old Mann building include the Family Life Development Center, the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, the Professors Emeriti, Policy Analysis and Management (PAM) and Human Development (HD) graduate students, the Cornell Cooperative Extension 4H/Youth Development and Technology Services and the Media and Technology Services Web and Video Production Groups. The Cornell Information Technology computer lab is now in the former Stone computer lab and the Student Commons is in the foyer of the Old Mann building.

“This was a complicated, frustrating and chaotic time for all of us,” Brannon said in an e-mail to the college’s faculty, staff and graduate students in August. “One of our goals is to keep departments and units together to maintain their integrity.”

The emergency move has impeded an estimated 6.5 million dollars worth of research, according to Brannon, who hopes to know the future of the north wing within a few months.

“[We have to decide] whether the building should be knocked down or reinforced,” Rawlings said.

After the official announcement, the human ecology college’s faculty and staff had three days to evacuate the north wing of MVR.

“It’s been very disruptive,” said Donna Dempster-McClain, associate director of the Bronfenbrenner Life Course Center, which has moved to the Old Mann building.

Dempster-McClain said that the administration handled the situation as well as possible, given the circumstances.

“It was difficult to coordinate the types of things that needed to happen in [the Old Mann building],” she said, explaining that individuals relocated a week-and-a-half before several rooms were outfitted for internet and telephones. “The timing of events was unavoidable. The order of activities, because everything happened so quickly, was understandably not in the proper sequence. It prolonged the agony.”

According to Dempster-McClain, the worst consequence of the move is that the relocated offices are isolated from the rest of the college.

“Faculty and students don’t stop by anymore,” she said. “It’s off the beaten path.”

As distressing as the situation has been, Brannon said that the faculty, staff and students have maintained a sense of humor throughout the ordeal.

“We’re trying to do this with an eye towards humor,” she explained.

According to Brannon, the college held a ribbon-tying ceremony to celebrate the evacuation, during which they played Carole King’s “I Feel the Earth Move.” In addition, the Cornell Dairy Bar created a new ice cream flavor called “MVR Crunch” to commemorate the move.

“It was a hoot,” Brannon said in reference to the ribbon-tying ceremony. She added that the new ice cream flavor, which is a light mocha ice cream with crushed heath pieces, “is very good.”

The wing closure and subsequent relocation process have impacted many human ecology college students.

“A friend notified me about [the closure] this summer,” said Nava Silton ’03. “[MVR is] not as homey as it used to be. It’s sad. I love MVR.”

Since only three classrooms remain in use in MVR, some students have experienced disturbances in their schedules.

“I feel like half of my college is gone. The atmosphere has changed totally,” said Johann Chau ’02. He added that there was chaos and confusion in the beginning of the semester because students did not know where to find their professors.

However, some students remain largely unaffected by the closure of the north wing.

“I thought my classes would be all over campus, but they are all still in MVR,” said one human ecology college student. “I think [the relocation] has affected professors mostly, because they had to move their offices.”

The human ecology college has obtained permission from Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin to occupy the Old Mann building for the next 18 months. The relocation has caused the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to postpone plans to renovate the building, originally scheduled for summer of 2002, until the summer of 2003.

However, Peter Schrempf, administrative manager of Mann Library, said that he is pleased to accommodate the human ecology college.

“I’m being as helpful as I can be,” he said. “Mann is pleased with the support we’ve received from Hum Ec, the University and the [State University Construction Fund]