Tag Archives: physical plant

Structural Integrity Concerns Are Concerning

Yesterday I posted a 1996 Argus article regarding a massive snowstorm that collapsed an entire wall of the Freeman Athletic Center. I made light of it, because, you know, it was 1996, and no one got hurt, and all is well, and people say funny things in 1996.

The day before that we reported on a building collapse on Main Street in Middletown. We made light of it—sort of—because everyone’s okay, except a bunch of old props from Oddfellows Playhouse, even though city officials say Middletown buildings are still threatened by heavy snowfall.

Today I received a scary email regarding on-campus evacuations from Joyce Topshe, Associate Vice President for Unpronounceable Names Facilities. I’m not making light of it, because it’s kind of scary. [Key safety tip: “Please be alert to any unusual cracking noises.” Unless your roommate  is, or studies with, Alvin Lucier.]

It’s Hot, Hot, Hot

Maybe not so much outside right now, but certainly inside, as you have surely noticed. Yes, frosh and transfers, welcome to everybody’s favorite time of year. Since the stress of finals isn’t enough, the school adds to your fun by steadfastly refusing to give you a place to study that isn’t 80 degrees–at least, not until after finals have ended and 3/4 of the campus has gone home. If you’re looking for relief from this annual heat wave, or if you’re trying to bury your head in the sand and maintain that global warming is not caused by humans, here are some places whose conditions may be more to your liking:

It’s Getting Hot in Hurr… NOT

finished_chickenIn this unseasonably chilly weather, nothing feels better than snuggling up in your bed with your Wesleyan (TM) blanket, gently baking like a beautifully seasoned chicken. But lately I’ve felt more like the chicken in the freezer at the supermarket, cold and unloved by whomever is controlling the heat.

My woodframe has had to call Physical Plant 3 days in a row because we didn’t have any heat. And each time PPlant came in, did their thing, and left. The heat came back and we rejoiced until we slowly realized that we were wearing multiple layers INSIDE.

Anyway, that’s nothing to post about in and of itself, but it seems that this is not an isolated incident. Apparently Fauver (senior at least) has been having some heating problems as well.

And if you went to Usdan tonight, you might have noticed that there were only paper plates and plastic silverware and cups. My naive self thought it had something to do with trying out new eco-friendly options in the dining areas. But then a deductively-gifted individual suggested that it was because they had no hot water to wash the normal diningware. Anybody know the story? [EDIT (11:23 pm): The commenters have spoken, check it out below.]

But the worst part is this: a little birdie told me that budget cuts are responsible for at least some of these problems. According to this source, maintenance wasn’t done when it should have been this summer and now we’re dealing with the consequences. Hmmm….. somebody has some ‘splainin to do.

In the mean time, let’s assess the situation. Commenters, help me out- are you feeling the heat?

Physical Plant: install more bike racks!

I went to Usdan today and was reminded of how frustrated I am with Physical Plant’s recent crackdown on “illegally” parked bikes. Where, I wondered, could I lock my bike without the risk of it being confiscated? The bike rack was full, the lamppost was occupied, and the handrails were taken, too. What to do?This issue was recently covered by the Argus. Liz Wojnar ’12 interviewed Cliff Ashton, director of Physical Plant, and I beg to differ with his view. While Ashton’s statement was correct:

Bike racks are, and continue to be, provided in many locations, convenient to classroom, dorms, Campus Center, and other buildings. However, in spite of best efforts to provide bike racks, locking of bikes to handrails continues.

… his statement overlooks the real problem. The issue isn’t so much the convenience or the location of the bike racks. It’s that there are simply too few bike racks to reasonably accommodate the number of bicycling students on campus. Says Ashton:

We often see bikes locked to handrails within 30 feet of an empty bike rack.

Well, more often, I see bikes locked to handrails within 30 feet of a fully-occupied bike rack:Of course, bicyclists shouldn’t block handicapped access to buildings, or block stairways, or prevent egress from a building in the event of an emergency. But, when our only choice is to obstruct a handrail—or risk having our bikes stolen—we all know what students are going to do.

Physical Plant, I beg you: stop forcing us to make that unfair choice. Install more bike racks as soon as possible.

Bike storage policy

It seems like I see at least one bike locked to a handrail outside a building every day. Alas, it looks like this is no longer a viable option. From an all-campus e-mail:

Due to the adverse impact on fire egress and building accessibility, bicycles that impede entrance to or exit from buildings (including handrails and ramps) may have their locks cut and will be confiscated by Physical Plant. Bicycles that are not claimed by the next semester will be donated.

If you find that your bicycle has been removed, please contact Jeff Miller of Physical Plant at 860-685-2568.

I like how the bikes will definitely be confiscated by Physical Plant, but only may have their locks cut. Maybe bikes with handrails attached fetch more on the black market.

Armchair arborists, unite!

One of the most beautiful—and most overlooked—features of Wesleyan’s campus is its rich variety of trees. Foss Hill in the autumn is a sight to behold. Unfortunately, though, trees do die, or get in the way, or fall on things, and so someone occasionally needs to remove them.

I had never thought about who removes them, until I came across Physical Plant’s Grounds web page, which lists every tree that has been removed from campus, from April 18, 2007 through August 4, 2008. Some of the commentary is great, albeit sad. For instance, the author laments the removal of hemlocks at 333 High Street:

The last of these hemlocks are giving up the ghost. While others on campus are holding their own, I will have to remove these.

Apparently trees have crotches:

A very large elm tree in front of ’92 Theater split apart on Saturday, September 22, during the football game with Middlebury. Altho that did not alter the outcome of the game, it did make me very sad. The problem was a weak crotch, and the health of the tree worked against its continued survival.

An amusing feature of the site is its constant misspelling of “hazard”:

This maple is dropping deadwood in an area where little children play. It has been deemed a hazzard, and will be removed.

It’s not all about sick and dying trees, though. A June 25 entry claims that “the fall season is here, and the leaves are falling.” Never mind the seasonal abnormalities, chalk one up for sustainability:

This is just a memo to the Wesleyan community that we do not waste the leaves. They are trucked to a composting farm in Middlefield, to be turned into new soil and reused.

Additionaly, the trees that we prune or remove are turned into wood chips, and picked up by a firm from northeastern Vermont. They are used in energy production and mulch. Great to know that the material is being recycled in a positive manner!

P-Plant union, University reach agreement


The Physical Plant workers’ union, the Office and Professional Employees’ International Union (OPEIU), reached an agreement with the University early this morning.

One detail of the new contract: health insurance payments will not rise until 2010, at which point they will increase to 18.5%. University negotiators had been demanding that workers pay 33%.

Though the terms of the contract are “nothing to brag about,” according to one Physical Plant employee, they’re much better than what the University was initially offering.

As of right now, it is unknown the extent to which President Roth’s recent meeting with union representatives influenced the new contract. It seems likely, though, that the deal was brokered with Roth’s support. As was reported in Tuesday’s issue of the Argus, President Roth has said he doesn’t “like the fact that the people who have worked here for a long time are unhappy with how we’ve negotiated.” Roth met with University negotiators last Friday, and sat down with University negotiators and union representatives yesterday.

P-Plant workers had been without a contract for nearly ten months.

UPDATE: President Roth has sent out an email to the Wesleyan community announcing the approval of the contract:

I’m pleased to announce that Wesleyan’s Physical Plant employees have approved a new three-year contract through a vote of the membership today. I’d particularly like to thank union representatives and the University’s negotiating committee for their patient and diligent efforts to reach an agreement. Everyone in the Wesleyan community is a beneficiary of the good faith efforts shown by all parties to bring their discussions to a successful conclusion.

—Posted at 11:17 AM; updated at 4:20 PM.

Roth blogs about Physical Plant negotiations

Roth’s blog occasionally provides some useful insight into administrative happenings. Recently, it offered a glimpse into our president’s thoughts on the Physical Plant negotiations:

… We are back at the negotiating table, but it is disturbing to see students enlisted in a protest (“No contract, no peace!”) that seems aimed to make up for the failure of the physical plant employees to agree with their own representatives. It is hard to miss the irony of physical plant employees having extra work to do as they clean up the scrawled messages of their student supporters…

On a lighter note, when Sophie saw “contract now!” scrawled on our driveway, she thought we were suddenly to become smaller…

As imagined, his thoughts have created some discussion in the comments section of his blog post. One stood out to me in particular: the fifth comment, in which Christie Kontopidis ’10 gave Roth a piece of her mind:

I’m surprised by Mr. Roth’s misrepresentation of the facts of the negotiations and the actions taken in response to them. There was no “irony” in physical plant cleaning up student chalking, because the workers who erased the chalking were sub-contracted, and not part of physical plant. Additionally, the chalking was only erased because of President Roth’s chalking ban which inhibits our freedom of speech. Workers and students are not divided on the issue of chalking. If the administration simply lifted the ban, no worker would have to waste time erasing chalk.

Furthermore, the pun made with the word “contract” just isn’t funny. These are people’s lives which are being discussed and negotiated.

Remember, there is a rally in support of Physical Plant workers today at noon, at North College.

Rally for Physical Plant

Short notice, but if you’re at Usdan for lunch tomorrow you might as well stop by North College at noon:

Tomorrow (Wednesday, 4/23) at 12:00, North College:

Rally with Physical Plant!

Put pressure on the Wesleyan administration to finally give PPlant the contract they deserve! Channel 3 News will be there, so let’s show them that Wes students support campus workers.

Please forward widely, chalk, tell your friends, whatever.

Read about what’s at stake in the Argus.