March 6, 2012

New Humanities Building Debated as Cause of Delay to McGraw Hall Renovations

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As the University’s plans to construct a $61 million new humanities building on the Arts Quad progress, renovations for the nearby, 140-year-old McGraw Hall have been halted indefinitely due to a lack of funding. While some administrators said that the new humanities building is depleting resources that could otherwise be used to complete the McGraw renovation, others argued that funding for the two projects are unrelated.Plans to renovate McGraw Hall date to 1987, when the College of Arts and Sciences recognized the need for more classroom space on the Arts Quad, according to Peter Lepage, dean of the arts college. Work on the building began in April 2011 to perform “long overdue deferred maintenance and replace the leaking roof system,” according to the Department of Facilities Services.Administrators and University officials offered differing explanations for the renovation’s holdup.Erik Gray, the University’s facilities manager, said that the new humanities building may be a “competing need” with McGraw for the arts college’s limited financial resources. “If we weren’t building a humanities building, obviously, there would be other millions of dollars that they could put towards other uses that might include McGraw or probably a hundred or a thousand other needs that the college wants to do,” Gray said. “It’s all just a matter of the amount of money that the University has in its resources.”While clarifying that the new humanities building is “only one such competing need, and [that] there are many, many others,” Gray said that he believes it is difficult for McGraw to compete for funds with the new humanities building.Lepage, however, said that neither the planned construction of the humanities building nor the development of the New York City tech campus has had an impact on the renovation of McGraw.  “The humanities building and the first phase of the tech campus are entirely funded by donor money,” Lepage said in an email. “Renovating McGraw will require some donor money, but also University funds, which are difficult to come by right now, given our very tight budgets. Our budgets are tight because of the financial downturn, the need to maintain adequate financial aid for our students, and so on –– that is, for reasons that have nothing to do with the humanities building or the tech campus.”The start date of McGraw’s renovation was also unclear. Robertson said that the renovation project will resume upon completion of the new humanities building.“We do know that it would happen after the new humanities building is complete … We need space for moving offices and programs around in the Arts Quad when the new building comes up,” she said. However, Lepage did not acknowledge that there was a connection between the construction of the humanities building and renovations on McGraw.Additionally, in an official statement, the Department of Facilities Services said that “the approval of the new humanities building has not affected plans for McGraw Hall.”While the University’s funding shorfall has delayed renovations on McGraw, the University has had to implement temporary measures to stabilize the building, according to Gray.Gray said that when he evaluated McGraw before starting to work on its roof, he noticed that the building’s moulding had moved from its original position, causing “things to look askew, just like it would in an old house.”He concluded that the building would need to have a brace added to it so it could successfully endure the stress of the roof replacement. The brace consists of metal rods that run horizontally through the entire building and enter the building through its windows. These horizontal rods, in turn, are connected to vertical rods that are attached to the outside of the building, creating a metal rod sandwich to support the building, Gray said. One of these rods runs through the office of Prof. Frederic Gleach, anthropology. “There was noise when we were trying to teach, or work in our offices, but it was less intrusive than I had expected,” he said in an email. “I now have a steel rod running through my office –– and two through the [Anthropology] Collections –– but again they’re not really that obtrusive, less than I had expected.” While Gleach said that disruptions caused by ongoing construction in McGraw during the fall semester were minimal, Julia Sylvester ’15 voiced concerns about McGraw’s incomplete repair work. “It makes me have less pride in the fact that I’m a history major,” Sylvester said. “Look at Statler and how they’re getting millions of dollars donated to renovate a space that is really nice.”According to Gray, however, the brace sandwiching McGraw is just a temporary, preventative measure. “The building was not about to fall down,” he said.Although the University originally planned to complete renovation in three phases, it will no longer split the renovation into multiple stages. Doing so would be “too disruptive for the people who use the building for their offices, classes and other purposes,” according to Susan Robertson, director of communications for the arts college.

Original Author: Margaret Yoder