BY ANNA BELMONTE
Over a couple weeks ago, seven of McKendree’s faculty and staff were relocated from the main floor and basement of Clark Hall. The problem? Mold. On the walls and beneath the carpeting in Clark, colonies of fungus thrived through years of flooding and poor ventilation. The mold remained undetected for a long time, until it began to show itself in unpleasant and unsafe ways.
Brent Reeves, Director of Multicultural Affairs and International Student Services, has worked out of Clark Hall for about 12 years, and he notes how frequently the basement flooded and had to have water vacuumed.
“That’s been going on for years,” Reeves says. “There was always a dank, musty smell down there.”
Requests to address this issue were reported to Physical Plant and sent up through university administration, but nothing took hold.
Then some of the faculty began noticing health changes. Reeves reports that some people would have breathing issues, coughing or sneezing.
“After that…” says Vice President of Student Affairs, Dr. Joni Bastian, who has worked out of Clark Hall for 24 years, “they did some other testing of air in my office and in Brent’s office. That’s when we…would go ahead and move.”
The university tried to keep the Office of Student Affairs together, so most were relocated to the Victorian House (301 Stanton St.). Bastian, however, was moved to 306 Wildy Hall. “I never worked in Wildy Hall,” she says. “That’s been good for me…and being around other people up here, too.”
Director of Show Choir, Adam Pulver, moved to the Victorian House weeks prior to the university’s decision to evacuate Clark Hall because the moisture in his office was disintegrating bits and pieces off the walls. Pulver’s temporary office is in the finished basement of the Victorian House, along with Reeves’.
Sarah Klucker, Director of Leadership and Student Development, and Jennifer Miller, Director of Student Success and Retention, moved into the upstairs rooms of the Victorian House around three weeks ago, and Reeves moved in a week after that.
“I am really appreciative of the university for giving the Office of Student Affairs a temporary home,” says Julia Hagan, Administrative Assistant for Student Affairs.
While the relocated faculty members are still working out kinks with the new space, they enjoy extra room, a kitchen and private parking.
“Actually, this space is bigger than my office I had in Clark,” says Reeves, though his basement office lacks windows and has poor cellular and Wi-Fi reception.
Getting students to find the Victorian House is another issue, since it is off-campus and at the far end of Stanton St. Reeves says he
hasn’t seen many students come his way since moving from Clark.
“I think, for our students, they’re finding us, which is important,” says Bastian. “We just have to remind them where [we] are.”
Bastian misses the interaction she got with students in Clark Hall. “…Stopping and visiting with the students on a daily basis…” she says. “I really miss that.”
Supposedly, the decontamination of Clark will be finished within the week, but some people are skeptical. “Hopefully in two weeks, maybe, but I think the work is so extensive, it’ll take months,” says Reeves.
A huge portion of Clark is currently under repair, and the promised two-week decontamination period doesn’t seem like enough time.
However, as Bastian says, “It’s been a short time really. We’ll get the problem fixed, and then we’ll be able to move on.”
While Hagan says she and her colleagues hope to be back in Clark by finals week, Bastian believes the Office of Student Affairs is content to stay where they are.
“My staff,” she says, “I think they’re very much enjoying the Victorian House; probably too much, actually!”
Reeves shares similar sentiments. “I’ll miss that when we’re back over at Clark,” he says about the private parking. “Back to finding a parking spot again.”
Hagan also recognizes the Victorian House’s benefits. “Having a kitchen is kind of nice! Jennifer Miller is a wonderful baker, so students and staff have enjoyed her chocolate chip cookies and banana bread.”
However comfortable and homey the new offices, the relocated faculty and staff will be ready to move back to Clark Hall when it’s safe to do so. The inconveniences of packing their office supplies in boxes and working from temporary spaces should be over before long.
“I’m really excited that we made the decision to fix the [mold] problem,” says Bastian. “I’m ready to get back though.” She says the Office of Student Affairs misses being together as a group like they had been in Clark Hall.
Because McKendree has these beautiful, old buildings, it also has to cope with not-so-beautiful maintenance issues. Hopefully, in the future, health hazards like the mold in Clark Hall will be prevented.
More about this topic to come in the next edition of the McKendree Review.