Monday, August 13, 2012

Fun with carcinogens!

No, not the cigarettes.  Yes, I'm still not smoking. 16 days.

Nope, I'm talking about the ones in my building. Specifically, the asbestos that is there when I have a maintenance request (hole in my window), but isn't there when I ask for health concerns.

Well, this summer, my department miraculously had some use-it-or-lose-it money that had to be spent on "durable equipment," so they decided to remodel the conference/seminar room in our forty year-old "temporary" building.  You see where this is going. Walls were painted. Projector was installed.  Large plasma screen, too. New bookshelves. As a final step, an expensive security system was purchased.  And as they were installing the latter...

Yup.  The asbestos is back. And we are now barred from our conference room (though not, of course, from our offices). And to keep us safe, they have sealed off the areas around the edges of the door and the vents... with blue painter's tape.

Sometimes, I just have to shake my head in wonderment.


Contingent Cassandra said...

Ah, yes. At my graduate institution, the basement in which the English and History grad student (and a few junior faculty) offices were located was reported, half a dozen years after I arrived, to have problems with radon. Measures were taken to solve the problem, but they were kinda vague about how long it had been going on, or how much danger it might pose, and to whom. My father, an alum of some 40 years earlier, pointed out that, in his day, the only people who used those basements were the janitors. Of course the janitors deserved protection, too, as did all the women who used the bathrooms down there (since it was originally an all-male school, the only women's bathroom of significant size was a late addition, located in said basement).

And don't even get me started on the CO2-spewing space heaters that were the only source of heat in one graduate housing complex (the solution to that one was to send out a memo, long about Halloween, telling us not to use them until they were replaced, and to keep the water dripping if necessary to keep the pipes from freezing. No word on how to keep the residents, including some babies and their often-elderly caretakers, who made long visits from the old country, from freezing. The latter may have felt a bit more at home than they expected).

One does begin to get a sense of whom the powers that be consider expendable, and not (and, to be fair, it may be easier to replace faculty than good maintenance workers these days, though the construction bust should help a bit with the latter).

Susan said...

I'm thinking about your 40 year old temporary building: as we build, I've been told that "every campus has a really ugly building that was built as a stopgap when they were growing fast." And of course it has asbestos. Sounds like Facilities has a "see no evil" approach to things!

I think I know CC's basement at Princeton, as I had an office there when I was visiting one year. And it sure does tell us about priorities -- especially where the humanities fit!

Bavardess said...

Asbestos is scary stuff, and worse when you're in a situation where you can't really do much about it. Are there not liability issues for the uni in not addressing it properly? (Something more than builders tape!) My department is about to move into some old prefabs while our 1930s building is earthquake-strengthened. I fear what will be uncovered at both ends of the process. I also suspect that since our building is a grand old Art Deco beauty, we will probably not get to move back into it at the end. Bets are on that the university's executive office will decide they need the space.