November 8, 2012

Displaced Cornell Outing Club Begs University for New Home

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The Cornell Outing Club has been forced to leave Japes Lodge because of unsafe roofing conditions, leaving the group and its thousands of dollars of gear without a home, according to its organizers.

The club, a student-run group that helps set up outdoor activities for people, had occupied the lodge on North Campus since 1958, according to Brendan Brown ’15, president of the club. The University told the club via email early September that they would need to leave the lodge by Nov. 15, before the snow season begins, according to club leaders.

Since moving out of the lodge Thursday, club members have been looking for locations to store all of their gear, which Brown valued at “tens of thousands” of dollars. He also said the club has contacted various student organizations and an exhaustive list of University building managers in an attempt to find space for the club’s gear.

Jim Gibbs, director of maintenance management for the University, said he “is concerned about the structural capacity of the roof” and whether or not it will be able to withstand the weight of the snow this winter. He also cited other issues, such as foundation walls leaking, as reasons for the University forcing the club to move out of the lodge.

Brown said that, while he knew the 90-year-old building had problems, he did not realize that the club would have to be evicted until he received the email.

“We knew there was going to be work, but we didn’t understand the extent [of the damages],” he said.

Although the University has not fully assessed the costs to repair the building, Gibbs said that he is certain the necessary repairs will not fall within the University’s budget. Currently, there are no plans to repair the building’s roof.

“I don’t think that this lodge will ever be used again,” Brown said.

Several groups and people around the University have expressed their support for the Cornell Outing Club and tried to help it find a new home.

Susan Murphy ’73, Ph.D ’94, vice president for student and academic services, recently signed a request from the COC to help the club find space for their gear, according to Brown.

In addition, on Oct. 18, the Student Assembly unanimously passed a resolution urging the University to allocate a new space for the club.

According to Roneal Desai ’13, vice president of finance for the S.A., the resolution was “a call to action for the SAFC to act in some way.”

If the COC is unable to get all of their gear out of Japes prior to the deadline, it is unlikely that the organization would be let back in. On Thursday, the locks to the building will be changed, and, according to Brown, facilities management will be very reluctant to reopen the doors.

In spite of the obstacles, both the University and the COC are working hard to find a new home for the club.

There are currently no permanent storage solutions for the club. The club is splitting up its gear and storing it in various locations around campus, according to Mary Kate Connelly ’15, secretary of the club.

“We’re really hoping the splitting up of our gear doesn’t prove to be a detriment to the function of the outing club,” Connelly said.

Both Brown and Connelly described the club’s location on Beebe Lake as “vital.” Part of the Outing Club’s goals are to promote the use of the lake, rather than the gorges, for recreational activities, according to Brown.

That goal echoes that of the University’s gorge safety steering group, which, in a report, recommended that the University promote the recreational use of Japes Lodge and the surrounding area to draw people away from the gorges.

But as of now, there are currently no official plans to redevelop the area, according to Gibbs.

Brown said he hopes that the Outing Club can earmark the space so that any future plans for the area can involve the club.

Original Author: Tyler Alicea