West Duke closed for remainder of semester
Students, faculty and administrators are displaced for the rest of the semester because of the collapsed ceiling in the West Duke building.
Classes and business offices located in West Duke have been removed or relocated to other locations since the ceiling in Room 202 collapsed Feb. 19. The collapse was caused by a combination of the building’s aging and structural changes that have impacted the plaster ceilings. The building will be closed through the summer in order to replace many of the ceilings, as well as to simultaneously conduct some needed maintenance—such as repairing the roof—said Kyle Cavanaugh, vice president for administration and emergency coordinator.
"The unexpected close of West Duke offices and classes has been a challenge for everyone," wrote Jan Riggsbee, director of the program in education and associate professor of the practice whose department is now operating in the Carr building instead of West Duke, in an email Wednesday. "Throughout the past two weeks, I have been amazed by the immediate, thoughtful and efficient response to the need of our department by the facilities team, technology supports, communications office and the deans."
She added that communication has been nonstop, with calls and emails throughout the evening hours and weekend.
Cavanaugh said an overarching renovation plan is in the process of being developed. Some individuals were permitted to enter the building under supervision last week to retrieve their belongings and materials. Structural engineers completed a room-by-room examination.
“A significant number of people have been actively involved in trying to mitigate the impact of what has occurred,” he said. “There’s also been a great deal of work and communication with individuals on how they can safely access materials they need both short term and long term.”
The building—which is three stories tall, 43,000 square feet in area and more than 100 years old—houses many classrooms, as well as the education department, the Kenan Institute for Ethics and Army ROTC. All classes in West Duke were relocated by the registrar’s office shortly after the accident.
Students like junior Sophia Staal now find themselves heading to class in multiple locations for the same class each week. Her Ethics 101 course meets in Carr, Social Psychology and East Duke for its three meetings.
“I don’t mind it that much, but I definitely got lost the first couple of times,” Staal said. “At one point my entire class was standing in the foyer in Soc Sci because we didn’t realize the class we were looking for didn’t exist.”
Although all classes have found a home to play out the rest of the semester in, some offices are still looking for temporary space on campus.
The education department has yet to find a place to house its faculty, even though its administrators have moved to Carr.
Senior Kirsten Osborne is writing her education thesis under adviser David Malone, associate professor of the practice in education, and she said they cannot access his research and materials because the building is closed. Malone has kept many of his files electronically, however, and Osborne will be able to continue with her thesis on time. The main hindrance is finding alternative meeting places.
The Kenan Institute is also looking for a long-term replacement while repairs are being made to the building. Katherine Scott, communications and advancement manager for Kenan, said that the institute's director and acting director, Noah Pickus and Suzanne Shanahan, respectively, have been working with supportive University administration to find a location.
“It is challenging for us because our West Duke space contains not only offices and classrooms but space for events, faculty meetings and student programming,” Scott wrote in an email Monday. “We are working hard to maintain our programs and events in the meantime.”
Kenan will either move to a location off-campus or another office space on campus. Students who are a part of Team Kenan, a group of undergraduates who work with the institute to create ethics-focused programming, have also faced roadbumps in their work because the building shut down.
“All of our projects have been put on hold because we no longer have a meeting space,” said Staal, who is also a part of Team Kenan. “It just makes it slightly more difficult to coordinate our activities because that was our central hub.”Staal noted that Team Kenan's work can still continue, but like Osborne, finding alternative meeting spaces across campus is harder without the West Duke in play.
Correction: an earlier quote in this article was misattributed to Jan Riggsbee. The Chronicle regrets the error.