Science Quad renovations make noise, disrupt some classes

While the construction and renovation of the science facility has proceeded according to schedule, some faculty members and students have raised concerns about the noise generated by the project.

According to Mike Dohaney, a builder working on the project, the construction is where it should be, and the unified center should still be completed by the spring of 1999. He said work is currently being done in all areas of the building, such as dry walling, painting, roofing and mechanical and electrical work.

Although unfamiliar with many complaints about the noise, Dohaney said the problem was unavoidable.

“It’s hard to do what we do without making some noise,” he said. He added that most noise resulting from the construction is localized to a small vicinity.

However, Assistant Professor of History Roger Kittleson moved a class out of room 11 in the chemistry building to a room in Lawrence as a result of the noise.

“The construction noise was drowning out our conversation,” he said.

Kittleson added, though, that the noise was not the only reason for the move.

“[The room was] not conducive to discussion anyway,” he said. “The construction wasn’t ultimately that much of an inconvenience.”

Brett Linck ’99, a student in Kittleson’s class, said he was happy with the decision to switch rooms.

“Occasionally Professor Kittleson had to either shout or stop speaking entirely while the workers used some noisy device,” he said.

Linck said he feels lucky that the class never had to take an exam in the room, and added that it might have been a mistake to schedule a class in the room at all.

“Scheduling any classes in that room showed a little bit of a lack of foresight by the Registrar’s Office,” he said.

However, Linck added that the noise level is usually tolerable.

“It was just a source of distraction and annoyance,” he said.

Associate Professor of Biology Heather Williams said she thinks the noise has lessened this semester.

“There is noise from the construction, and it is distracting— although I think it was worse last spring than it is now,” she said.

Williams added the release of toxic fumes (such as carbon monoxide and diesel fumes), a leaking roof in the biology library and power outages to the list of disturbances resulting from the construction.

But Williams also said she is very pleased with the way in which the project organizers have handled the disruptions.

“Bruce Dacoteau and Eric Beattie have been very responsive and helpful in trying to minimize the impact of the disruptions,” she said.

“Yes, it’s been a nuisance, but one that has been less than it could have been, and one that I find easier to live with when I keep the ultimate outcome in mind,” Williams added.

Shanna Renzi ’99, who has an economics class also in room 11, agreed with Linck that the noise has been distracting. She said there have been times when for five or ten minutes the class was unable to hear or concentrate on the lecture.

Renzi said the noise was worst at the beginning of the semester.

“The construction was so loud that all I could hear was high volume metallic clanging sounds for about five minutes,” she said. “That only lasted a couple weeks, though, and it never lasted through the entire class.”

She noted that there is now a new distraction. “Now the only disturbance is the occasional construction-hatted stranger peering through the classroom window,” she said. “It is sometimes very distracting to see movement that close to the window. If you look around the room, about two-thirds of the eyes are riveted in fascination on whatever happens to be the project of the day.”

Assistant Professor of Economics Douglas Gollin, who teaches Renzi’s class, added that the noise has only significantly interrupted the class a few times.

“With a few momentary exceptions, I haven’t had much problem from construction noise or distractions,” he said.

Chair of Biology David Lynch observed that noise is an inevitable result of construction work and that trying to reduce the noise level may result in a slowing down of the work.

“Given the opposing desires to not interfere with classes, but have the building completed in an expedient fashion, I think the College and the construction contractors have hit a good compromise,” he said.

Lynch added that the construction workers “have been very responsive and stop the [disruptive] activity as soon as they are asked.”

Some students note that it is worth putting up with a minor distraction so that the construction project can continue on schedule.

Heather Heyes ’02, who has a class that meets in the chemistry building, for instance, said the noise is not “overly distracting.”

“[It is] a small price to pay for the reward which will follow,” she said.

Adam Steeves ’02, who is in class with Heyes, added, “I am personally not bothered by the noise, and I for one am glad to see the construction moving forward with such rapid progress.”

Matthew Kim ’01, who takes Chemistry 101, said he does not think the construction is a problem.

“The construction has not affected me in any beneficial or deleterious manner,” he said.

According to Dohaney, the worst of the noise is in the past and it should be less of a problem in the future as the project nears completion.